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Article updated: 10/23/2013 8:37 PM

Wrestlers guilty of damaging Naperville mayor's 'Mystical Dragon' sculpture

By Josh Stockinger

A pair of college wrestlers who picked up a 5-foot-tall Fiberglas dragon sculpture from Naperville Mayor George Pradel's yard and chucked it off a bridge have now picked up misdemeanor convictions.

Matthew Cavallaris, 21, and Adam Lehnus, 20, pleaded guilty in DuPage County court Wednesday to damaging Pradel's "Mystical Dragon" sculpture in a drunken prank on June 1.

In exchange for their pleas, both men received a year of court supervision and -- as personally requested by the mayor -- 50 hours of community service at the DuPage Children's Museum in Naperville. They also must write letters of apology and each pay $175 for repairs.

"Hopefully they can put this behind them and learn from that lesson," Pradel said Wednesday. "Maybe it can be an example to others about respecting people's property."

The sculpture, called "Nighty-Knight," was one of 50 commissioned for auction during a 2006 public art fundraiser for the Naperville United Way. In its left arm, it held a miniature statuette of the mayor himself and, in its right, a book called "Goodnight Naperville."

Authorities said Cavallaris, of Naperville, and Lehnus, of Bartlett, had been drinking when they plucked the dragon from Pradel's yard about 1 a.m., dragged it across the street, and threw it onto the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad tracks from the Columbia Street bridge.

Attorneys for both men described their clients as "very remorseful."

"It was just a stupid kid prank," said defense attorney Mark Kowalczyk, whose client, Cavallaris, was scheduled to stand trial Wednesday but instead pleaded guilty.

Attorney Brett Appelman, who represented Lehnus, said his client has already paid restitution and sent apologies to not only the mayor but also the mayor's wife.

"He's a good kid," Appelman said. "He just unfortunately made one dumb mistake."

Lehnus, a wrestler at North Central College in Naperville, and Cavallaris, a wrestler at the University of Wisconsin, were arrested after police said they found them in the area of the Columbia Street bridge "acting suspicious and walking fast as if they were trying to get away." They had faced up to a year in jail.

Meanwhile, Pradel said he's returned the dragon statue to his yard and hopes to keep it there because it's a favorite among children and people walking pets in his neighborhood.

He said he doesn't feel "any hatred" for the pranksters.

"My heart goes out to them because they made a wrong decision," Pradel said.

Daily Herald staff writer Marie Wilson contributed to this report.

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