The Carrington (N.D.) High wrestling team never got a shot to defend its run of three consecutive Region 2 dual tournament titles, yet the reason it missed out had nothing to do with any ineligible player or poor results. Rather, the team was foiled by an uninvited visitor on its bus to the event: A wild raccoon.
According to the Grand Forks Herald and the Associated Press, among other outlets, Carrington was getting ready to compete at the duals championship when administrators discovered the team had been exposed to the animal on the ride from Carrington to Grafton, N.D., where the event was being held. With no time to assess whether any athletes had been in direct contact with the raccoon -- or whether the animal had rabies -- school officials immediately pulled the team out of the event to ensure that it wouldn't put any other wrestlers at risk. No players were bitten or scratched by the animal, but it was unknown if the raccoon was rabid, meaning that officials couldn't ensure opposing wrestlers would be safe from risk if the event continued as scheduled.
"We (school administrators) found out as the tournament was going on that while our students were on the way to the event, they were exposed to a raccoon," Carrington school superintendent Brian Duchscherer told the Herald. "Once we found that out, we didn't know if there was the potential of spreading anything, if the raccoon had rabies or not, so we decided to bring our kids home."
While the incident certainly provides a new watershed moment for "strangest self-disqualification from a postseason tournament," it actually gets even stranger when details surrounding the encounter are explored. According to the Herald, the team's coaches learned that there was a raccoon on the bus when their athletes picked up the animal, believing it was dead.
The decision to pick up a dead wild animal is questionable enough, but what the team's coaches decided to do next is arguably more bizarre: Instead of immediately removing the animal from the bus, they decided to move it to rear storage area instead.
That's right, the Carrington wrestling team knowingly rolled along to the Region 2 duals championship in the full knowledge that they had a wild animal in the back of the bus, dead or alive. In fact, it was only when the team arrived in Grafton that they discovered the animal was quite alive, as it trotted off the bus calmly after the storage area was opened, eluding capture to prevent any rabies testing that would have possibly cleared the way for the team to compete.
Final score: Raccoon 1, Carrington Wrestling 0.
Instead, the entire team got back on the bus and headed back to Carrington, sans raccoon and sans region championship trophy. As a result, the Cardinals will enter 2011-12 looking to regain the Region 2 duals title rather than defend it, with North Boder-Cavalier now the standing champions after victory by forfeit on Saturday.
The new champions may have been the big winners from the weekend's bizarre bus incident, but the raccoon itself was clearly a close second. Given it's performance at playing possum, perhaps it should be nominated for some kind of an animal kingdom Oscar.