KSU wrestler dismissed from team after violations of conduct

Sam Wheeler

Sam Wheeler

Richie Mulhall

Kent State junior Sam Wheeler has been dismissed from the wrestling team after facing multiple incidents in which he violated team and Student-Athlete Handbook rules.

Wheeler, who was suspended from the team indefinitely last season after tweeting derogatory, anti-gay slurs aimed at former University of Missouri football-standout Michael Sam, was “kicked off the team” by the athletic department three weeks ago, said Kent State wrestling coach Jim Andrassy.

Wheeler was charged by the Kent Police Department on two separate occasions during the last seven months. First, he was charged with criminal trespassing in March, and then he was arrested in August for disorderly conduct, behaviors Athletic Department officials deemed worthy of dismissal from the team.

“He was dismissed from the team for violating athletic department and team rules,” Andrassy said. “Sam was one of my favorite kids on the team, but it just came to the point where we couldn’t have him around anymore because he couldn’t do the right things on a regular basis.”

After Wheeler returned to the team in April to prepare for freestyle competition, “little things” continued to occur, Andrassy said. These incidents snowballed to the point that the team was forced to part ways with its 184-pound starter.

On March 16, 2014, an officer charged Wheeler with criminal trespassing for failure to leave a premises outside of University Edge apartments. According to the Kent Police Department’s record of the incident, security guard Rodney Adolphson observed Wheeler attempting to enter University Edge apartment number 4370, and told him he was not allowed on the property.

Wheeler acknowledged he knew this and told Adolphson he was there to pick up some money. Adolphson filed a report and management signed charges for criminal trespassing.

According to the same police report, Weslee Daum, the apartment general manager, previously reported multiple incidents of trespassing, alleging that Wheeler had been repeatedly showing up on the premises. On June 11, 2013, Wheeler was “notified in writing and personally served such writing, that he was no longer allowed on the property of University Edge apartments,” according to the report.

On Aug. 8, 2014, Wheeler was charged with three counts of disorderly conduct for “creating a risk of physical harm,” “fighting or violent and turbulent behavior” and “fighting or threatening” at the intersection of South Depeyster and East Main streets.

Kent police arrested Wheeler while he was intoxicated for “recklessly (causing) inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm” by engaging in violent behavior, which is considered a minor misdemeanor offense under state law. The police report did not specify details of the incident.

Wheeler did not respond to a phone call asking for comment.

Kent State Athletic Director Joel Nielsen declined to comment on specific details regarding Wheeler’s recent conduct. He said other factors played a part in the decision to ultimately sever ties with Wheeler.

Andrassy said in light of the two incidents, along with other team violations that included the Twitter controversy last winter, the athletic department decided to part ways with Wheeler.

Nielsen said each team has its own policies, but the athletic department uses the university’s code of conduct as a baseline guide for student athletes to obey.

“There are some things that get you kicked out automatically — those are pretty well-spelled out — like felonies and things like that,” Nielsen said. “It’s all in the handbook, but outside that, it’s a case-by-case decision oftentimes.”

The athletic department’s policy for student athletes states that every student athlete who is arrested and/or brought before Kent State University Student Conduct will be reviewed by the athletic director, sports administrator and head coach of the team to determine the appropriate disciplinary action.

Nielsen said the department’s senior associate athletic director, Janet Kittell, worked closely with Andrassy. Both met with Wheeler to make a decision regarding the former wrestler’s status.

Nielsen made the final decision to dismiss Wheeler from the team.

“It’s not as though it’s a judge and jury without hearing a lot of different sides,” Nielsen said.

Both Nielsen and Andrassy said it is unlikely that the decision to dismiss Wheeler from the team will affect his current academic standing at Kent State. Andrassy also said he hopes Wheeler will finish college and graduate next spring.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].