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High School Wrestlers Will Compete Despite Controversial Photo

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STATE CENTER, Iowa West Marshall High School wrestlers accused of snapping a photo of a vulgar message for a rival school will still be allowed to compete in the state tournament, School Board officials decided Monday.

"Our boys, some in their underwear, have made newspapers across the nation. They've paid the price greater than anything you people can deliver them," said Mike Needham, a parent of one of the wrestlers.

The image in question, a snapshot showing shirtless West Marshal wrestlers displaying a vulgar message, was posted online last week and went viral.

Monday night's School Board meeting began with an apology.

"We as the West Marshall School District are extremely apologetic for the unsportsmanlike conduct we, as the wrestling team, participated in. It was uncharacteristic action brought on by the intoxicating thought of going to state duals," wrestler Cole Gilmore said.

Some parents said the athletes made the effort to apologize in person to Don Bosco High School in Gilbertville.

"People need to be made aware of the actions these young men have taken to amend, and I would challenge anyone that you do not fully realize the consequences of being in the national media spotlight," parent Shelley Goecke said.

School Board members said the team's actions were disappointing, embarrassing and unsportsmanlike.

"You have torn a community apart and divided it by this childish and foolish act," School Board member Wayne Larsen said.

The School Board decided that the wrestlers involved in the incident will have to perform 40 hours of community service, but will retain their eligibility for the state finals, which begin Wednesday.

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