The family of the 14-year-old wrestler seen being struck in the face in a now viral video during a USA Wrestling event has decided to pursue charges against his 14-year-old opponent. The offender received a local ordinance citation for assault and was charged under the Village of Oak Park code.
In the highly circulated video filmed on Saturday, April 8 at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s fieldhouse, a 14-year-old was seen being struck in the face by his 14-year-old opponent after winning a wrestling match 14-2.
The incident happened during the “Beat the Streets Chicago Freestyle & Greco Tournament,” hosted by USA Wrestling and was aimed to help empower Chicago youth through wrestling.
The 14-year-old who was struck, is from Sandwich, Illinois. He suffered a nose injury but is doing okay, said his mom Jillian Hill, who spoke with Wednesday Journal.
According to Hill, her son fell to the ground after being struck after the match. Hill ran to her son’s side and called for a trainer, unsure if they needed to call an ambulance.
“[It] was devastating,” Hill said. “I don’t think any mom is ever prepared to see their son or any child for that matter be hit, especially in front of them. It was very difficult to watch, and I will not watch the video anymore.”
Hill said the family reported the incident to Oak Park police after it occurred, unsure if they wanted to pursue charges.
The Village of Oak Park issued a press release addressing the incident in the now viral video, saying that upon reflection, the family decided to follow up with the Oak Park police and pursue criminal charges.
Both boys are reported to be 14 years old and neither one of them is an Oak Park resident or an OPRF High School student. Wednesday Journal will not be naming the boys involved as they are minors.
According to a press release from Beat the Streets, the organizers of the event, the incident is being reviewed by USA Wrestling, the governing body for amateur wrestling in the United States and USA Wrestling/Illinois, the state affiliate.
“Beat the Streets- Chicago strongly condemns such behavior, which conflicts with our mission of empowering youth through wrestling,” read the press release.
“We are very disappointed that this happened at one of our tournaments, which are meant to provide young people with opportunities to grow and compete in a positive, safe environment,” Mike Powell, executive director of Beat the Streets Chicago, said in the press release. “We are relieved to know that the young man injured is recovering and we have taken the necessary actions to let the authorities determine next steps.” Powell is a former head wrestling coach at OPRF.
According to a press release by the Oak Park Police Department, officers were called to the event just after 4 p.m. on Saturday and met with complainants who relayed that their son was struck in the face, unprovoked, at the conclusion of a match and had sustained a bloody nose.
According to police, officers also spoke on the scene with the 14-year-old offender and his parents, who said they would cooperate with any future investigation. The 14-year-old offender, who was not named in the press release, said he struck his opponent because he was angry that he had lost the match.
Hill said they had not had any communication with the other family.
“They did come to try to apologize after the incident,” Hill said. “But because emotions were running high, we felt it wasn’t the best time to have that conversation and [her son] really wanted to get out of there.”
According to Hill, her son is doing well and has no plans to stop wrestling.
“He is an incredible human being, beyond being an incredible wrestler,” Hill said. “He is really taking this in stride and basically, he really just wanted to share his story so that maybe something good could come out of it instead of just being the kid who got punched in that viral video.”
While the family is hoping to move forward and thankful for the support, they have received from everyone, including the wrestling community, the incident has caused an uproar across social media platforms as the story was picked up by Sports Illustrated, TMZ, and the New York Post.
“This video was taken by someone we don’t know and released without our consent,” Hill said. “Our lives were turned upside down very quickly.”
According to the Oak Park Police Department, the investigation is ongoing but the latest press release by the department said an adjudication hearing is scheduled for next month.