Wake Forest, North Carolina — A high school wrestler from North Carolina was recently penalized for stopping to say a prayer before he began his match in the state playoffs.
Nicholas Fant, a student at Wake Forest-Rolesville High School, has a practice of bowing down on one knee a few seconds before each match to ask God’s blessing. However, this past week, when he did so during the first round of the North Carolina playoffs, he was cited by the referee.
According to reports, Fant walked out onto the center of the mat and dropped to his knee. The referee then issued a stalling warning, which meant that Fant would lose a point. Fant went on to ultimately lose the match.
Those present at the playoffs were not pleased with the referee’s decision, and neither was Fant or his coach, Sam Hershey. He has declined to comment to reporters, but states that he will review how the stalling warning is meant to be implemented in matches.
NCHSSA Commissioner David Whitfield told reporter Todd Starnes that he believes the referee made the right call.
“When the referee called them to the center of the mat, at that point it’s time to wrestle,” he explained. “By rule, the official was well within his rights to issue a stall warning.”
He asserted that the call had nothing to do with prayer or religion.
“It had everything to do with the rules of wrestling,” Whitfield said. “You have discretion in all rules as it relates to wrestling, but in this case, one of the wrestlers was in the circle waiting.”
However, David Culbreth of the Southeastern Wrestling Officials Association said there was no harm in letting the student pray for a few seconds.
“David Culbreth believes in God, and on my mat, God gets two seconds,” he stated.
Culbreth said he would not have penalized the boy, but if the prayer became too lengthy, he would have ended it for him and moved the match onward.
“I’m not going to call that,” he outlined. “But if it turned into a 60-second prayer, he’d probably get a verbal warning — or I might try to say ‘Amen’ for him.”
No complaint is expected to be filed in the matter.
A number of athletes acknowledge God before, during or after sporting events. One of the most notable athletes that has been recognized for his popular prayer pose is football star Tim Tebow. The gesture, called ‘Tebowing,” has been emulated by many — a practice in which Tebow goes down on one knee, and then raises his fist to his forehead as he bows for a few seconds to thank God on the field.
Photo: Dreier Carr