A longstanding wrestling rivalry between New Jersey schools appears to be over following a decision by school officials. A photo surfaced in February showing a collection of white students, wrestlers from Phillipsburg High School, posing around around a grappling dummy which was hung around the neck while wearing a t-shirt from Paulsboro High School.
Two of the students also wore hoods, which they pulled up to a high cone top, seemingly simulating a Ku Klux Klan style hood.
The wrestlers in the photo had their season ended and were not allowed to participate in the state tournament.
The two teams have faced off every year since 1999 with the exception of one year, when the match was canceled due to the weather, said coach Paul Morina. Paulsboro leads the series, 8-6.
The meet has been described as cloaked in tradition, with the host team providing food for the visitors before the long trek home.
"We looked forward to it every year, it was a big match," said Morina, also the school's principal. "It was hard to drop."
But Morina said he discussed the decision with fellow coaches, staff and school officials, and there were "a lot of concerns."
Much has been made of the possibility that the kids didn't intend anything racist with the photo -- "The grappling dummy only comes in black!" being the standard rallying cry. And it has been pointed out that Paulsboro, while a diverse school with about a 60/40 white student to black student ratio, has a predominantly white wrestling team.
It's just a tough sell given the entire photo, especially the hoods.