Wrestling mats

Workers set up the mats for the State Wrestling Tournament at MetraPark in 2008.

Gazette Staff

School District 2 trustees approved a $30,000 settlement Monday over accusations that the district mishandled injuries sustained by a Senior High wrestler.

James Christian Wine filed suit against the district in 2014, citing an incident at a wrestling practice in 2008 when Wine was a freshman.

According to the complaint, Wine was flipped over by another wrestler, hit his head on the mat, “immediately felt ‘paralyzed’” and passed out during a practice. He regained consciousness and feeling in his extremities. He said he reported what happened to an assistant coach, who told him “it was just a ‘stinger’” and did not contact the school athletic trainer or nurse or call 911.

SD2 will pay a $15,000 deductible toward insurance that covers the rest of the settlement, said Marilee Duncan, the district's contracted attorney. As part of the settlement, SD2 acknowledges no liability.

Wine didn’t tell his parents about the incident despite experiencing dizzy spells and poor coordination during the next two weeks. Wine’s wrestling coach and assistant coach were aware of the problems but did not consult a trainer or nurse, and Wine continued to practice, according to court records.

About two weeks after the incident Wine passed out in the shower and told his parents about the injury. They took him to Billings Clinic for medical care, where he was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck, which continued to cause health problems.

Wine accused the district of being negligent because coaches didn’t consult medical officials, and he argued that the wrestling drill he was injured during was against generally accepted standards of the sport, in part because it combined wrestlers from “vastly different” weight classes and students wrestled from their knees.

In a 2016 response filing, SD2 disputed Wine's accusation. On Monday, Duncan said SD2 hadn't heard about Wine's injury until the suit, which she said was a "huge surprise to the district."

Duncan said she interviewed Senior High staff and was able to get some information about the accusations, but "it's very difficult to piece together what happened eight years before."

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.