TURBOTVILLE - Sarah Retherford placed her right hand on the back of her son Zain and began rubbing his back up and down.
The vote deciding Zain's eligibility to wrestle with Benton High School was seconds away, but the two seemed to know the outcome when the motion was made by one member of the District 4 Committee to rule the transfer from Line Mountain ineligible.
The entire Retherford family - Zain, Sarah, father Allen and daughter Hannah - sat at a table in the Warrior Run High School library Thursday night following nearly three hours of testimony as the District 4 Committee ruled unanimously that Zain's transfer from Line Mountain to Benton was "materially motivated" by athletics.
The Retherfords, clearly upset with the ruling, left the Warrior Run library in a hurry last night. Sarah Retherford was the only one to speak following the hearing, briefly turning to a group of reporters to say, "It's really bad. Shame on them (the district committee)."
Yesterday's hearing was closed to the public and the media at the request of the Retherford family. District 4 Chairman Jim Zack declined to speak to the nature of the testimony from Thursday's hearing because it was closed.
As it stands, Zain Retherford, a 2010 PIAA Class AA 103-pound wrestling champion, is not eligible to compete with the Tigers, but may practice with the team.
"The decision was based on the information presented during testimony," Zack said following the hearing.
It was the second time the District 4 Committee has ruled Retherford ineligible this fall. The first time, the Retherfords and Benton appealed the decision to the PIAA. The PIAA Appeal Board ruled there was a procedural problem with the first district hearing and remanded the case back to District 4, making yesterday's hearing necessary.
PIAA Executive Director Brad Cashman and PIAA Director of Legal Affairs Michael Solomon, Esq., were on hand to make sure the district followed the proper procedures in the hearing.
"We got it right," Solomon said.
Cashman also said, should Benton and the Retherfords again choose to appeal the decision by the district committee, the state hearing will be held Thursday at PIAA headquarters in order to give Benton, Line Mountain and the Retherfords a final ruling before the competition season begins on Dec. 9.
The PIAA is scheduled to have a Fall Sports Workshop on Thursday, which means there will be enough board members in attendance to expedite the hearing process. Cashman said at least five board members need to be present to have a hearing.
Prior to the District 4 Committee's motion to rule Retherford ineligible, committee member Glenn Fogle made the motion for Line Mountain to investigate allegations that were made during testimony yesterday and report back to the committee with its findings.
Although it was not specified by Zack what the allegations were or what they regarded because the hearing was closed, it is believed to be in reference to the Retherfords' claim that Zain was bullied while at Line Mountain.
"I can't comment on that," Zack said. "I can say it's based on the testimony, that led the committee to make that motion."
"The district committee has the authority to impose penalties on a member school on things that may be a violation of the bylaws of PIAA. That's why they asked for the investigation to take place," Cashman said. "If they are satisfied with the results, then the matter is closed. If not, they call Line Mountain in for a hearing, then possibly impose a penalty for inappropriate action or things that affected the bylaws."