Former Blair Academy Wrestler Sues School over Hazing, Sexual Assault Allegations

Blake SchusterContributor IApril 15, 2021

DENVER, CO FEBRUARY 18: 10 mats busy during the last day of the Colorado high school state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center. February 18, 2017 Denver, CO. (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

An elite boarding school in New Jersey is being sued by a former student wrestler over claims coaches and administrators allowed the team to haze him despite repeated claims of harassment and sexual assault. 

The unnamed wrestler is suing the Blair Academy, four administrators and four coaches—including former head coach Brian Antonelli—for unspecified damages, according to Lori Comstock of the New Jersey Herald. 

The alleged hazing began in 2016 when the plaintiff was a freshman. During a December road trip with the nationally recognized wrestling program, the student claims two teammates forced him into a bed before stripping his clothes and pulling him in a hotel shower. 

Antonelli "merely laughed the incident off," the suit claims, and told the wrestler the hazing was a "rite of passage" and would only last "the first few months." 

The plaintiff—identified as John Doe in the lawsuit—claims he suffered through repeated incidents of harassment throughout his four years at the boarding school, reportedly requiring him to step away from the team on occasion. 

Now a wrestler at a nationally ranked program in college, the plaintiff said Antonelli convinced him to rejoin the team as a freshman by explaining they needed him for qualifying points. 

Per Comstock:

"Antonelli allegedly witnessed one incident in which the boy was tackled to the ground on campus but did nothing about it. The boy said he also received explicit threats from a wrestler that he would be victimized by gangs. Someone also set up a 'fake web account' in the boy's name on a Blair Academy computer server and filled it with pornographic images and threats, the suit said.

"The boy said he had a meeting during his senior year with Christopher Fortunato, then the academy's head of school, and other administrators, but that they refused to look into the incidents. Fortunato, who left the school last December, told him to 'fight through it and take a few days off,' the lawsuit says." 

Blair coaches are alleged to have also called the wrestler's soon-to-be college coach encouraging them to revoke their scholarship offer to the plaintiff, arguing he was a "baby" and had to "toughen up." 

Fortunato nor Antonelli responded for comment to the New Jersey Herald. A Blair Academy spokesman said the school does not comment on pending litigation.