Wrestling mats

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

Gazette Staff

A former Billings Senior High student is suing School District 2, accusing it of mishandling injuries he sustained at a 2008 wrestling practice.

The suit was filed in Yellowstone County District Court in 2014 by James Christian Wine, who was a freshman in 2008. It seeks unspecified damages. In a response, the school district disputes virtually all of Wine’s accusations.

According to the complaint, Wine was flipped over by another wrestler, struck 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.

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 argues 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.

The school district response contains mostly point-by-point denials to accusations in the complaint. It does note that “the wrestling coaches were acting within the course and scope of their employment.”

Current Senior High wrestling coach Josh Beeman took over in 2015. He graduated from Senior in 2005. 

Both sides planned to meet March 1 to schedule future court hearings, according to the most recent filing in the district court’s electronic system.

Attorneys for Wine and the school district did not respond to messages left at their offices Thursday.

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.