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Valley's Fields penalized for prematch handslap, leading to loss

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 6:29 p.m.

HERSHEY — Well aware of the strong competition in his weight class at the PIAA Class AA Championships, Valley senior 182-pounder Terrell Fields expected to surrender points here and there Friday at Giant Center.

But not for slapping an assistant coach's hand before a match.

Fields followed a pre-match routine he said he has followed since his freshman season and consequently violated a rule that cost him a penalty point in his quarterfinal against Bethlehem Catholic senior Jose Ortiz. That penalty point became the foundation for Ortiz's 2-1 win over Fields (35-2), a three-time state qualifier who placed sixth at 182 last season.

The rule Fields violated states that wrestlers must go to the center of the mat once they check in for a match. Leaving the inbounds area, even to simply slap a coach's hand, is a penalty.

“I didn't know something like that could be a rule,” Fields said. “Every match since freshman year, that's what I do. I did it yesterday. I don't know why I'm just hearing about it. I'm sure I'm not the only one who slaps a coach's hand after checking in.”

Though aware of the rule, Vikings coach Steve Ansani questioned the appropriateness of enforcing something he views as a common no-call.

“It's a vague rule, and they haven't been consistent with it at all,” Ansani said. “I've seen numerous kids slapping coaches' hands after they check in at the table. Most referees aren't going to make that call.”

John Hosage, the PIAA's interpreter and supervisor of officials, said he believed the rule was not being ignored by some referees and applied by others. And he made clear that, regardless of Fields' innocent act, Fields violated a rule.

“The match starts when you come to the table,” Hosage said. “You belong to the referees once you report, and you're expected to be ready to wrestle.”

He added: “It's my understanding that (the referees) verbally tried to get him to stop before he could do it, but it didn't work.”

Informed of Hosage's comment about the warning, Ansani said he never heard the referees say anything to Fields.

Handed a lead to start the bout, Ortiz wrestled a cautious, defensive style that Fields and Ansani found almost as frustrating as the enforcement of the hand-slap violation.

“Starting the match up by 1, he didn't have to do anything, so he just waited,” Fields said. “I was caught really off guard by that (penalty), and it really killed my mood. I ran that match through my head three or four times, and in my head, I was going to win 1-0. I was going to ride him out. I'd push, push, push, and he'd be tired, and he wouldn't be able to get out.”

Said Ansani: “Ortiz knows the game, so he just stalled it out. He knew we'd tried to beat him on our feet, so he just clammed up.”

For Fields, a third-place finish in the PIAA still is attainable. He recovered from that quarterfinal loss to beat Hughesville's Matt Herr, 9-2, in a consolation bout.

He'll wrestle again Friday night, when Class AA action resumes at 6:30 p.m.

The consolation win guarantees Fields a medal. Three more wins will get him third place.

“It's over with, and it'd be foolish to still dwell on it,” Fields said of the loss. “I've just got to run the table here. Wrestling back and taking third, there's still a lot of credit there. It's my senior season, and I didn't get where I wanted, but third place isn't bad.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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