Cleared for the mats: West Marshall school board lets team wrestle

STATE CENTER – The West Marshall High School wrestling season will go on after a decision made by the school board Monday night.

A packed house inside the school’s auditorium witnessed the decision by the board – to punish the Trojan wrestlers involved in a photo with an obscene word directed toward their opponent with 40 hours of community service each.

The board had the option to end a successful season in which the team has qualified for the state duals tournament, which takes place Wednesday, and has five individuals going to the state meet later this week as well.

“We’ll take care of what we need to do and go on from there,” head coach Lonnie Ferguson said after the board’s decision.

The photo of the team spelling out an obscene phrase on their arms surfaced after the team beat Don Bosco to qualify for state duals. The team has since apologized in person to the Don Bosco team on a trip to Gilbertville.

Two wrestlers apologized publicly at Monday’s meeting.

“We are here to apologize to our community, our school district and our administration,” said senior team member Brandon Overman. “We are sorry and we are willing to do anything the board agrees upon. This is a great example of bad judgement combined with today’s media age that anything we post can affect our futures.”

Several parents spoke up at the meeting and felt the students have been punished enough and didn’t want to see them have to forfeit the rest of the season. Many of the parents agreed it was a foolish act and was embarrassing for the community.

“We need to move on,” said parent Tom Hilleman.

No community members spoke in favor of having the team forfeit the duals as punishment, though board member Gary Conkin said he got several phone calls from community members believing they shouldn’t be allowed to wrestle the rest of the season.

Board member Wayne Larsen said students are taught that character is important in the district and this did not typify character. Larsen said it “totally goes against every aspect of character” and he was the lone vote against the community service punishment.

Fellow board member Jeff Lanning said he can forgive the team and didn’t want to keep them from state duals.

The 40 hours of community service must be completed by the end of the school year and includes the 13 team members and the one who took the photo. The board also wants a public apology to the community to be sent to local newspapers from the team.

Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or