BLAIRSTOWN, N.J. - A former Blair Academy wrestler claims coaches and school administrators ignored his cries for help after he was subjected to years of abuse by teammates.
Blair Academy is a private boarding school, located in Blairstown, Warren County, New Jersey, and has one of the top-ranked high school wrestling teams in the country.
In the lawsuit filed last month, the wrestler, who is listed as John Doe, states that shortly after joining the team in 2016, he was assaulted by upperclassmen during a wrestling meet when two teammates he was rooming with stripped off his clothes and forced him into a bed and a shower.
John Doe said he reported the attacks to the school's then-head wrestling coach, Brian Antonelli, who laughed it off and called what happened "rites of passage."
Antonelli has since stepped down as head coach for unrelated reasons, but is still employed by the school.
The suit said the assaults and hazing continued throughout the next few years with teammates continuing to dunk John Doe's head in the toilet.
The hazing got worse when John Doe became a senior. John Doe and his family said they reported the incidents to school administrators who refused to look into them.
Attorney Juan Fernandez represents the former student who, according to the lawsuit, is now a nationally recognized college wrestler.
"This wasn't just one person. This was an institutional failure. He simply just doesn't want this to happen to anyone else ever again," Fernandez said.
According to the lawsuit, when John Doe refused to participate in the rest of his senior wrestling season because the incidents left him too unstable to compete, the coach retaliated, contacting the student's college program where he had received a full wrestling scholarship and called him a "baby."
A spokesperson for Blair Academy says it can't comment on pending lawsuits.