Former high school wrestlers sue for negligent handling of skin conditions

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (AP) – Two former high school wrestlers have filed a lawsuit, claiming the Cabell County Board of Education and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission were negligent in their handling of wrestlers with skin conditions at the 2017 Class AAA Region 4 tournament.

Chase Gibson and Orian Pifer claim in the complaint that they were infected with Herpes simplex virus type-1 after wrestling Huntington High competitors who shouldn’t have been cleared to compete due to skin issues, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.

One of the Huntington wrestlers was oozing from several lesions of his body that were soaking though his singlet during a match, news outlets reported.

An SSAC official questioned a Huntington High wrestler’s skin condition before the regional tournament, according to the complaint.

Highlanders coach Rob Archer claimed he had a completed skin form showing the wrestler “had seen a doctor and that he had been treating impetigo for 2 days.”

However, the complaint states it’s not likely any doctor would have signed off on the form because the wrestler – by Archer’s admission – had only been on antibiotics for two days when the form mandates a three-day minimum before return to competition.

Attorney Richard Holtzapfel, representing Gibson and Pifer, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the county board of education to get the form. However, the complaint claims the organization was unable to produce it.

The Huntington wrestler was allowed by his coaches and tournament officials to compete at the regional tournament, where he faced Pifer.

During the match, the wrestler was oozing from several lesions on his body, according to the suit. Neither the Huntington coaching staff nor SSAC officials stopped the match.

Another unnamed wrestler faced Gibson at the regional tournament with lesions partially covered by his singlet, the complaint claims. After the match, according to the complaint, the wrestler pulled down his singlet and revealed oozing lesions on his chest to Gibson before telling him, “You need to shower now.”

The complaint claims, among other things, that SSAC was negligent in failing to detect the skin infections during skin checks as well as failing to stop the matches once the lesions on the wrestlers became more prominent and were exposed during the matches.

The board of the education faces accusations in the complaint including failing to train coaches in how to properly detect and deal with skin infections. The newspaper didn’t report if they reached out the county board of the education for comment.

When reached by phone, SSAC executive director Bernie Dolan was not yet aware of the complaint and had no comment, the newspaper said. Archer and Holtzapfel couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday evening.