Disputed facts
Holly Mullen's story "Losing by decision" [February 20] contained factual errors that need correcting.

First, Mullen reports "a few girls were allowed to wrestle at state, but their matches were exhibition only." That's incorrect. The Texas Interscholastic Girls Wrestling Association (TIGWA) held its first state championship matches with 17 girls participating. The results were reported in The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and other newspapers.

Second, Mullen reports that "...Texas continues to stand against female wrestling." Again, that's incorrect. In countless interviews with the media and in my interview with Mullen, I made it clear that we do not oppose female wrestling. We're against female vs. male wrestling. No one that I know in the Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association, the Texas Wrestling Officials Association, or any other organization opposes female competition.

Third, Mullen reports that "On December 10, the referees who make up the TWOA finally gave up altogether on the coed question. They had walked out on previous matches. They had raised the 'groping' issue dozens of times." Again, that's inaccurate reporting.

Prior to December 10, no official had walked out on a match (referees walking out happened only one time all season, Dec. 14 at St. Mark's School). Also, no official had spoken to the press prior to December 10 except for me, and I did not raise the groping issue. I have the clips to prove it.

Fourth, Mullen--referring to the formation of the TIGWA-- reported that "Tom Harrison, a longtime Arlington wrestling booster, appointed himself executive director." Once more, inaccurate reporting. I know. I was there. Harrison was nominated by others present and accepted the nomination.

Fifth, Mullen reports that I've "blustered and ranted" on the topic of "inappropriate groping and contact" for months. Again, she's wrong. What I've ranted about for months is being sued for discrimination while I'm an unpaid volunteer giving up hundreds of hours of my personal time and donating tens of thousands of dollars toward college scholarships for deserving student-athletes.

I've done over 50 media interviews, and I've mentioned the sexual harassment issue on six occasions. I can produce news clips to back this up. The caution I've raised far more often is potential injuries to girls who wrestle boys. I've repeatedly warned about serious shoulder, neck, and elbow injuries.

Also, she describes me as "stocky" and a person who "runs his own public relations business." Both are untrue. I'm not at all stocky, and, as I told her in our interview, I run an advertising agency.

Mullen should also have referred to a story that came out on the news wire on February 7 regarding a proposal to allow inter-gender sports in Texas public schools that was "floored by a skeptical State Board of Education."

Board chairman Jack Christie called the idea "dangerous." Board member Donna Ballard of The Woodlands said, "I will be adamantly opposed to it." Are these two also part of the "good ol' boys" that Mullen repeatedly refers to? Why was this article not mentioned in her story?

It should be noted that had Courtney Barnett not seriously injured her elbow wrestling in a meaningless junior varsity exhibition match against a male teammate (with non-certified, inexperienced officials present), she would have competed in the first girls' state wrestling tournament and would likely have won the championship in her weight class.

That's the irony of the whole story. My question is: Why did that escape the reporter's attention? Was it because her entire story would have collapsed under its own weight of misstatement and sanctimony?

Finally, we've won both court decisions against the plaintiffs in this case. If they continue to pursue the matter in court, we will continue to win, just as I have repeatedly predicted in the press.

John Rizzuti
Texas Wrestling Officials Association

Staff writer Holly Mullen responds: Mr. Rizzuti's letter continues in the tone he set during our interview. Regarding his specific points, he is one-for-five in objecting to the story's accuracy.

First, Mr. Rizzuti apparently misread the story. It stated that girls who attended the state competition last year (at the close of the 1995-'96 season) were only allowed to wrestle in exhibition matches. This is confirmed in copies of minutes from Texas Interscholastic Wrestling Association meetings. Mr. Rizzuti refers to this year's tournament, where 17 girls wrestled in an all-female category.

Second, Mr. Rizzuti has chosen to hide behind a semantical dodge. In the paragraph he refers to--and in the context of the entire story--it is clear that the term "female wrestling" refers to male-female matches. As Mr. Rizzuti states, he and his fellow referees are decidedly "against female vs. male wrestling."

Third, it is simply true that referees, TIWA representatives, and many parents have raised the 'groping' issue dozens of times. They have also cited fears of girls claiming sexual harassment and inappropriate touching. If I missed the date of the officials' walkout at St. Mark's School by four days, I apologize for the error. But the overall point of my story remains correct.

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