Massapequa High School wrestler Patrick Schmidt knew he was no match for the nationally ranked alum he was pitted against at practice three years ago.
Vincent D'Agostino, who had volunteered to work out with students, knocked the younger Schmidt over in January 2008 using a move called the "double leg takedown." Schmidt's ankle fractured in three places, he recalled.
Now Schmidt, who said he will have two metal plates and eight screws in his ankle for the rest of his life, is suing his former high school, school district and D'Agostino himself for unspecified damages, saying they should have known they were putting him at risk. The civil trial began Thursday in Mineola.
"If you believe it was negligent to have a 26-year-old wrecking machine wrestling a 17-year-old boy, I'm going to ask you to hold them accountable," Schmidt's lawyer, Brian Gunn, of Garden City, told a Nassau County jury Thursday.
Robert Krause of Uniondale, who represents both the Massapequa schools and D'Agostino, said in his opening statement before State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Brown that the school had done nothing irresponsible. Sometimes in sports, accidents happen, he said.
He said in court papers that Schmidt had already wrestled D'Agostino numerous times on the day he was injured, and was aware of his size, skill and experience. Of D'Agostino, Krause said: "Was he donating his time so he could go and beat up kids? I think what you're going to find is that that was not the case."
But Gunn told jurors that Schmidt, now a 20-year-old student at Farmingdale State College, was put at high risk and forced into a situation where he knew he would be bested. While Schmidt was a good high school wrestler, he hadn't been recruited by college coaches, he said. D'Agostino, in contrast, had been ranked 19th in the country in college.
Schmidt, who may testify as soon as Friday, said the injury has changed his life. It has limited his sports activity and may also prevent him from realizing his goal of becoming a police officer. "It puts a lot of limitations on the things I can do in my life," he said.