Falcon HS Wrestlers fighting for post season tournaments
By Tom Blair, ICW Staff
While most wrestlers in Colorado are wrestling their competition on the mat and getting ready for post season tournaments (regional and state). Four wrestlers from Falcon High School wrestling team were suspended from competing 10 days ago, with District 49 saying they had violated CHSAA Bylaw 1850. This bylaw which prohibits transferring to a new school for special training to compete in high school sports.
The four student athletes were all shocked as they all competed in last year wrestling season. The students – Aydin Rix McElhinney (senior), Landon Drury (sophomore), Nevin Smith (sophomore) and Daniel Leon (sophomore). The students attend District 49 Springs Studio for their academics, which is a public blend school that is half online and half in school. The school does not offer any sports, so the student / athletes are able to compete for any high school within their district.
All four students are enrolled in Betterman Elite Wrestling, a nonprofit wrestling club on South Academy, coach Joe Betterman was excited to help train these young athletes. When the four athletes asked to come to live with him and train at his club, he went to the school district they would compete in to make sure they were following all the Colorado High School Activities Association (CSHAA) regulations. Betterman, is the club coach and legal guardian of all four of the athletes. All four of the student athletes came to live with the Bettermans’ for different reasons and training at the club is an extra benefit.
When Coach Betterman first heard about the suspension, he called CHSAA and D49 to try to get answers. They told him they would investigate, and by Friday, January 28th, they made their final decision.
D49 told the media that the final decision was made and the decision meant three of the four athletes would be ineligible to compete the end of the season. The district released this statement to the media even before notifying Coach Betterman, the coach and legal guardian of the athletes. As per CHSAA decision, one student who is allowed to wrestle transferred under a separate circumstance and will be allowed to compete for that reason. The eligible student athlete is sophomore Daniel Leon.
Rix McElhinney transferred as an incoming sophomore from Maine and sat out the fill sophomore school season / year (365 days) before competing for the Falcon HS. He finished in the runner-up spot at last season state in his junior year.
Drury transferred as a incoming freshman from Washington during the summer and enrolled in D49 schools. Him and his parents wanted a more normal high school setting as Washington state is closed due to Covid. He finished the freshman high school wrestling season with 4th place at state.
Smith enrolled as a freshman coming from Canon City where he was having struggling with his academics during the 8th grade school year due to covid and the online learning. He finished his freshman wrestling season with a 4th place regional finish (which would have him wrestling at state in a normal year).
Leon who also enrolled as an freshman and lives with the Betterman, finished in 4th place at regional and would have wrestled at state in a normal year.
All four wrestlers have improved in their academics with the move to Betterman’s Elite Wrestling. Which is a standard the club is very proud of and stride for, Rix McElhinney holds a 4.0, Drury holds 3.8 and Smith holds a 3.0.
Betterman said he hasn't received any written notification of the ineligibility. He said all of this information has been relayed to him over the phone. "[I'm] very frustrated, I think that CHSAA really didn't take the time to really go over this situation -- and then they didn't follow proper protocol. The kids are really the ones that are at loss here,"
The three sophomore wrestlers (Smith, Leon and Drury) followed Colorado (CHSAA) rule of free choice of high school as incoming freshman and the transfer student rule should not apply to their situation.
Without any written communication from D49 or CHSAA, Betterman will attempt the appeals process, hoping it's completed in time for his athletes to compete at the regional tournament. Betterman also has lawyers involved and is trying to fight this decision however possible. He's also asking CHSAA to tell him what his younger student athletes are doing wrong, so they can fix it for next season.