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North Carolina official penalizes prep wrestler for pre-match prayer

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Pray this story isn't true.

Wake Forest-Rolesville wrestling coach Sam Hershey will seek clarification on the ruling -- Raleigh News & Observer

Wake Forest-Rolesville wrestling coach Sam Hershey will seek clarification on the ruling -- Raleigh News & Obs …

A North Carolina high school wrestling official issued a warning to a Wake Forest-Rolesville (Wake Forest, N.C.) High competitor for praying prior to a match, eventually costing him a point and leading to a 3-0 loss, according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

As he has done all season, WFRHS junior Nicholas Fant kneeled at the center of the mat for a prayer that lasted all of two seconds before taking onCary (N.C.) High's Corey Daniels in a 220-pound match, the News & Observer's J. Mike Blake reported.

Only this time the referee issued a delay warning, claiming Fant intentionally stalled the match -- despite the fact he stood up prior to his opponent entering the circle and before the referee finished issuing the penalty, according to the paper.

According to the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations, "It is stalling when either wrestler delays the match. This includes straggling back from out of bounds, unnecessarily changing or adjusting equipment or delay in assuming the starting position on the mat." In 2008-09, the NFHS issued 27 pages of guidelines for calling "stalling," and nowhere in the document is pre-match prayer mentioned.

As a result, Wake Forest-Rolesville head coach Sam Hershey plans to seek clarification about the ruling, although he won't officially report his frustration with the official to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, according to the News & Observer.

If he wanted, Hershey might actually have a case with the NCHSAA. When Fant and Daniels were later each called for stalling during the match, it cost the WFRHS wrestler a point. While Fant lost to Daniels, 3-0, and Wake Forest-Rolesville fell to Cary, 33-30, who knows what might have happened if he hadn't fell behind in the match?

You may recall Tumwater (Wash.) High running back Ronnie Hastie, who was whistled for a penalty in 2010 after pointing to the heavens following a touchdown run, but this is the first I've heard of an athlete being penalized for a pregame prayer. Just imagine if Ray Lewis was whistled every time he stopped to pray? The Super Bowl might still be going on, and Joe Flacco would be starting ever drive from the 1-yard line.

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