Judge sides with Marian Central wrestler and coach, overturns IHSA suspensions as eligibility case continues

A judge on Thursday temporarily lifted the suspensions imposed by the IHSA on a Marian Central Catholic High School wrestler and coach.

The ruling means co-coach Jordan Blanton will be allowed to continue to coach this season, and freshman wrestler Jimmy Mastny will compete while the question of his eligibility at the Woodstock school continues to be hashed out.

The IHSA Board of Directors upheld decisions last week to suspend Blanton for this season and ban Mastny from ever wrestling at Marian. The board that governs high school sports in Illinois ruled that the way Mastny joined the team went against IHSA rules that prohibit recruiting, which both the student-athlete and coach have denied.

In ruling in favor of the coach and the wrestler, Judge David Gervais questioned why Mastny should be punished under the circumstances.

In considering the impact on the teen, Gervais said he thought to himself: “What in the world did he ever do wrong? Could he be punished for actions of his mother in this situation? I don’t think so, yet that’s what is happening.”

The judge said he’s not finding that recruitment took place in this situation and that “here is a coach [Jimmy] has had some success with,” adding it made sense that Mastny wanted to stay with that coach.

Gervais – the same judge who oversaw the transfer of Mastny’s guardianship to the coach’s mother – also said the IHSA didn’t provide clear explanation of how to apply its rules.

“How could the coach know if there was a violation? How could the coach prevent his mom from becoming [Mastny’s] guardian? I don’t think he could have,” Gervais said. The judge called it a “rather unique area of the law.”

The courtroom in Woodstock was filled by dozens of supporters who arrived with Mastny and his mother, Renee, who filed the court action with Blanton on her son’s behalf, and many more observed the hearing on Zoom. They petitioned the McHenry County court seeking a temporary restraining order and an emergency injunction to stop the IHSA ruling from going into effect.

They say in their court filing that their “clearly ascertainable rights” were violated by the IHSA ruling, which they called “unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.”

Mastny “would be forced to choose between participating in IHSA student athletics or transferring schools and thereby jeopardizing his academic and behavior progress and success,” the court filing says.

The suspensions came after the IHSA investigated how Mastny, a nationally ranked wrestler, came to be enrolled at Marian. His family transferred guardianship of Mastny to Stacey Blanton, the coach’s mother, because the Mastnys live in Oregon, Illinois, and struggled to find a home closer to Marian, located more than 60 miles away in Woodstock.

After the judge sided with him, Mastny said outside the courtroom, “I’m just excited to compete again.” The team has a meet at Notre Dame in Niles on Friday, though it wasn’t clear yet if Mastny will participate.

Renee Mastny said after the hearing: “This is God’s plan and this is why we are here. He is with people that love him as much as his own mother does.”

Blanton added, “This decision was made for [Jimmy’s] best interest.”

Mastny told Shaw Local News Network on Thursday that he was informed two days before his first match that he could not wrestle. He has missed 20 of the 45 matches so far. The wrestling season runs through Feb. 17.

Prior to the hearing Thursday, Mastny said he chose Marian Central because of the academics and the teachers he met during a tour in May, and not necessarily to be on the wrestling team.

For about six years, Mastny’s mother has been friends with Stacey Blanton. The Blantons live in Woodstock, so the two families spoke, and the Mastnys arranged to give the Blantons guardianship of their son so he could attend Marian, the families said.

Mastny participated in a wrestling camp at Marian in 2020 with a former coach, but it wasn’t until after touring the school last May he told his mom he wanted to attend high school there. His family, who had homeschooled him, lives more than an hour away.

Renee Mastny said she did not want to send her son to a public high school and had toured other private schools. When her son told her he wanted to go to Marian, she said she responded with, “‘You know, we’ll figure it out.’”

During Thursday’s hearing, Timothy Brandner, the Huntley-based attorney representing Jordan Blanton and Renee Mastny, said the IHSA’s report is “fundamentally flawed.”

He said there is no finding of recruitment or inducement, or evidence of “undue influence.”

“There is nothing that supports that he did not already make up his mind [to attend Marian] or showed the coach did anything improper,” Brandner said.

Brandner argued that the association “failed” in providing evidence indicating Stacey Blanton offered him to live in her home for the sake of wrestling for Marian.

The attorney noted the longstanding friendship between Stacey Blanton and Renee Mastny, and said that even if Jimmy were not to be allowed to wrestle moving forward, Blanton still would allow him to live in her home. The lawyer said she would offer such an opportunity “for any child.”

The next court date is scheduled for Jan. 5.

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