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ADHD Wrestler Ducks ‘Redshirting’ Limits

CHICAGO (CN) - An Illinois teenager who had to repeat a year of high school can remain on the varsity wrestling team for a fifth year, a federal judge ruled.

Matthew Lyon had to repeat his junior year at Gordon Tech College Prep in Chicago because of academic difficulties stemming from his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The teenager had joined Gordon Tech's wrestling team as a freshman.

"Participating in wrestling at Gordon Tech improved Lyon's self-esteem and provided him with a renewed commitment to his education," according to the complaint.

But the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) forbids students from more than eight semesters of participation in high school sports. The rule aims to prevent "redshirting," or slowing a student's academic pace for athletic advantage.

After IHSA counted Lyon's second junior year as his fourth year of eligibility, Lyon requested to wrestle in his fifth year.

The board denied his request, however, and it shot down his appeal.

U.S. District Judge John Darrah granted Lyon a temporary injunction Thursday.

Denial of the waiver would likely violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, Darrah said.

"Lyon's request is a minimal one and would not result in fundamental and unreasonable changes to the IHSA Rules," the ruling states. "By Lyon's account, his involvement in high school wrestling gave Lyon renewed focus on his academics, as well as improved self-esteem. Granting this exception for Lyon, the IHSA will, in fact, be supporting its objective of providing Lyon with the experience of wrestling 'in an educational setting which may provide enrichment to [his] educational experience.'"

Darrah added: "Providing Lyon with the waiver he seeks in order to continue his participation in wrestling would be a reasonable and only a slight modification of the IHSA rules. The IHSA's failure to provide this accommodation would likely result in the IHSA's liability under the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act]; therefore, Lyon has demonstrated he is likely to succeed on the merits."

The chance to play high school sports comes but once in a lifetime, according to the ruling.

"Participation in high school athletics is a unique and finite opportunity," Darrah wrote.

"Each meet or competition that passes without Lyon's participation is another opportunity that cannot be repeated," he added. "The IHSA wrestling competitions will continue to occur as they are scheduled, and failure to provide Lyon with the injunctive relief he seeks cannot be undone. The clocks cannot be turned back for Lyon to participate in these missed opportunities if injunctive relief is not granted."

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