Family files lawsuit over wrestling injuries

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The parents of a Valencia Middle School student who they claim was injured by a fellow wrestler are suing the school district, school and district officials and two coaches.

Roberto Gurule and Michelle Johnson, the parents of Matthew Gurule, filed a complaint in the 13th Judicial District Court against Los Lunas Schools, the board of education, Valencia Middle School Principal Ron Hendrix, athletic director Wilson Holland and coaches Steve Phillips and Manuel Otero.

Los Lunas Superintendent Bernard Saiz said he couldn't comment on the pending litigation.

According to the lawsuit, the teenager attended his first day of wrestling practice on Nov. 8, 2012, the "first day of participating in any type of sports program of his life." The complaint claims Gurule had never had any prior training or instruction in wrestling.

The lawsuit, filed by Los Lunas attorney David Chavez, alleges Phillips and Otero paired Gurule with another student to engage in a wrestling match.

"(The other student) immediately took Matthew Gurule down to the ground, shoving his face and body into the mat in a violent and/or aggressive manner injuring … (Gurule)."

"(The other student) had engaged in dangerous and aggressive wrestling techniques on the first take down," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs claim the mats the coaches had the students wrestle on during the practice were improperly maintained and worn out. They also allege when Gurule complained to the coaches about his injuries, they did not assist, treat or help him get medical attention.

The complaint also states that the coaches then instructed the other student and Gurule to begin a rematch and, for a second time, he "violently and aggressively threw Gurule into the ground face down and jumped on (Gurule's) back causing severe injuries."

Gurule again complained of his back injuries, according to the complaint, but again, the coaches failed to help provide medical attention or inform his parents of the injury.

The plaintiffs allege the coaches sent their son home from his first day of wrestling practice with three broken vertebrae.

In the court documents, Chavez maintains that the board of education, Hendrix, Holland and the coaches should have known that the other student "posed a danger and serious threat to others."

The plaintiffs are asking the court to award them past and future medical damages, loss of income, loss of recreation, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of household services, incidental and consequential damages and attorney fees.

The case has been assigned to District Court Judge William Sanchez.


-- Email the author at cgarcia@news-bulletin.com.