For Broadneck (Md.) High senior wrestling captain Collin Harrell, everything seemed to be falling into place. After an injury wracked season, Harrell recovered just in time for the Howard County championships, which serve as the regional qualifiers for Maryland (top performers at regional tournaments then qualify for the state meet). Harrell suffered a surprising semifinal loss, but still needed just one more consolation victory to qualify for the regional championships the following weekend.
The next thing he knew, Harrell and his mother were being escorted from the tournament at Annapolis (Md.) North County High, essentially ending his career off the mat in the most confusing and bizarre circumstances possible.
Precisely what happened is a vague study, but so far as the Annapolis Capital and other Maryland media outlets have been able to discern, Melloni Harrell, Colin's mother, was ejected by North County administrator Laura Dudek for what Harrell claims were bizarre fan violations related to her walking in front of the school's concession stand (this really is what the elder Harrell claims was behind her ejection, as she spelled out in a lengthy explanatory Facebook post).
Incredibly, the Harrells weren't even the only mother-son combo kicked out of the county championships by Dudek; the North County administrator also ejected North County senior Collin Alexander and his mother. No motive for the Alexanders' ejections have been provided (maybe Dudek was just out for people named Collin?).
Thus far, Dudek has refused multiple media requests for comment on why she kicked Melloni Harrell and her son, Collin, out of the County Championships in the middle of the event. What is certain is that after Melloni Harrell went to tell her son she was being escorted out of the building, Collin Harrell understandably demanded to know why his mother was being ejected. Precisely how he phrased that query has gone unreported, but as soon as he "became emotional and upset," the younger Harrell was forced off his team's official lineup, essentially ending his high school career (if you want to get a sense of what Harrell is like in action, you can see highlights from one of his final matches as a junior below).
"Collin is captain of the wrestling team and has been since he was a sophomore. He has been a leader for the younger wrestlers and has always set a good example," Melloni Harrell wrote on Facebook. "There were college scouts coming to the States to see him wrestle. This incident has far reaching complications."
For his part, Collin Harrell expressed thanks to all of those who have supported him after the unfortunate incident and apologized for any behavior which was unbecoming, all while refusing to back down from his decision to stand up for his family.
"I ask you to understand the sport of wrestling means far greater to me than just a sport, and to see my career flash before my eyes after all of hard work and dedication I have put into it triggered a very passionate and emotional reaction," Collin Harrell wrote on the MarylandWrestling.org messageboard. "Having said that, I am however not apologetic for standing behind my family, they mean more to me than anything in this world and I would never stand around to watch one of them be unfairly miss treated. They have been in my corner since day one and I could not possibly repay them for all that they have done for me. If I was put in a situation to defend my mother again I wouldn't hesitate."
As it happens, the incident could have far reaching implications (we're pretty sure that's what Ms. Harrell was searching for there) for both the wrestler and administrator who gave him the boot. As the Feb. 24 regional finals -- the event begins Friday evening -- have drawn closer, pressure has mounted on Maryland wrestling officials to make an exception for Harrell and allow him to compete in the 138-pound division of the regional championships.
Annapolis wrestling coach Tom Owen stepped forward with a proposal to allow Harrell to wrestle as the third seed in his weight class, behind two wrestlers who are placed below him in all state rankings. The Capital has even written an editorial calling for his inclusion in the state tournament qualifier.
It's likely that Harrell and the entire Broadneck program would happily accept that third-seed compromise. The senior is just six wins away from setting a new school record and would still stand every chance of qualifying for the state meet. Unfortunately, because of state organizational bureaucracy and one very unfortunate decision, its all but certain that the younger Harrell will spend the weekend at the regional championships in the stands, rather than on the mats.