Rocky Point senior Kristopher Ketchum can compete in the state wrestling tournament this weekend, a state Supreme Court judge ruled on Wednesday.
It’s the second time this month that Ketchum’s attorney, Deirdre Cicciaro, has secured a court order that allows Ketchum to compete.
Ketchum was called for “flagrant misconduct” during a Jan. 17 match and was given a state-mandated one-match suspension that would have prevented him from participating in the Suffolk County qualifying tournament on Feb. 2. But a judge granted a stay and Ketchum was allowed to wrestle. He won his three bouts and earned a spot in the state championship tournament in Albany.
Last week, Ketchum was declared ineligible for the tournament by New York State Public High School Athletic Association executive director Robert Zayas “to protect the integrity of our rules that apply to everyone.”
In an interview, Zayas said Ketchum “has not served the prescribed penalty” for his disqualification; state athletic rules say an athlete must sit out the next contest after an ejection. Zayas did not believe the appellate court’s decision pertained to NYSPHSAA because it had not been named in his lawsuit.
But state Supreme Court judge Michael Gajdos, at an emergency hearing in Riverhead court late Wednesday afternoon, ruled to not overturn the appellate judges’ decision.
Zayas said NYSPHSAA will appeal Gajdos’ decision even though that will take months to decide and will have no effect on Ketchum’s state-tournament status. Zayas said it’s important to protect against a potential courtroom precedent that encourages other suspended athletes to bring their cases to court.
“I really don’t think settling disputes in high school sports is meant for a courtroom,” Zayas said, “but unfortunately, that’s the day and age in which we live.”
Wednesday’s court decision had the state wrestling committee scrambling to include Ketchum in the 145-pound bracket of the two-day event, which starts Friday at the Times-Union Center.
“We [had been] directed to seed the state-tournament bracket without Ketchum,” said Ed Ramirez, who serves on the state wrestling committee and is the director of athletics for the Baldwin Union Free School District. “After the court ruling allowing Ketchum to wrestle, the state wrestling committee decided to create an outer bracket at 145 pounds and go with 17 wrestlers in the competition instead of 16.”
The addition of Ketchum changed all of the first-round matchups in his weight class. Ketchum, who has a record of 44-5, received the sixth seed in the tournament. He will face the winner of the outbracket bout between Karamvir Hothl of Rush-Henrietta and Nick Albornoz of Minisink Valley.
“We didn’t just add him [at the end],” Ramirez said. “We went through the points system and put him in the spot he earned. We could have removed the final at-large bid and stayed with a 16-man bracket. But we felt that would be unfair to the last competitor that had practiced and prepared for the last two weeks for the state tournament.”
Hunter Hughes of Newfield, who was the final at-large addition, will remain in the bracket. Instead of wrestling second-seeded AJ Kovacs of Iona Prep, he now will face third-seeded Brock Delsignore of Shenendehowa.
“We felt Hughes earned the right to continue to participate,” Ramirez said. “Ultimately, this is about the student-athletes and doing the right thing.”