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Five wrestlers charged in hazing incident
By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/5/2010 6:17 PM | Updated: 3/6/2010 9:06 AM

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Police arrested five Prairie Ridge High School wrestlers Friday on misdemeanor battery charges claiming they hazed teammates on multiple occasions at the Crystal Lake school.

The charges, which will be prosecuted in juvenile court because of the students' ages, allege they either intentionally caused harm to another person or made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature.

Crystal Lake Police Cmdr. Michael Brichetto said the incidents occurred over a period of time and the students involved are in several grade levels.

The arrests culminated a probe that began after officials at the Crystal Lake school received an anonymous letter Jan. 28 claiming a student wrestler was held down by teammates and repeatedly slapped in the stomach.

The ensuing investigation included interviews with more than 60 students as well as the school's wrestling coaches, police said. It revealed allegations that several wrestlers participated in hazing activities that included restraining teammates while they were slapped and groped through their clothing, according to police.

Before filing charges Crystal Lake police met with the McHenry County state's attorney's office to go over the investigation and possible charges.

"We reviewed the police reports and did not believe there was any felony misconduct," said State's Attorney Lou Bianchi, whose office must approve felony charges. "They made the decision to file misdemeanor charges, and we concur with that decision."

Dan Hofmann, an attorney for one of the boys arrested, called the charges "absolutely outrageous."

"Any parent should be very worried if they have a child engaged in sports at Prairie Ridge High School," he said. "They should be afraid that innocent adolescent horseplay will result in criminal charges."

A spokesman for Crystal Lake High School District 155 could not be reached for comment Friday, but district officials previously said they would conduct their own investigation into the hazing claims. District policy specifically bans hazing and says students found guilty of it face punishments that include suspension or expulsion.

The wrestling team continued to practice and compete in meets during the investigation.