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

Jimmy Mastny moved from Oregon, Ill., and into his coach’s mother’s house to attend Marian Central

Marian Central Catholic High School student Jimmy Mastny and wrestling co-coach Jordan Blanton and supporters in front of the McHenry County courthouse on Dec. 21, 2023. Mastny and Blanton are seeking an injunction to stop IHSA suspensions. Next to Jimmy is Stacey Blanton, the coach's mother, with whom Jimmy has been staying so he could attend Marian. Behind them is Jimmy's mother, Renee Mastny.

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 able to continue to coach this season, and freshman wrestler Jimmy Mastny will be able to compete while the question of his eligibility 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 effect 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 [Mastny] has had some success with,” adding that 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 IHSA didn’t provide a 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 with 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 said 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,” according to the court filing.

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.

“I’m just excited to compete again,” Mastny said outside the courtroom after the judge sided with him.

The team has a meet Friday at Notre Dame in Niles, although it wasn’t clear whether Jimmy will participate.

“This is God’s plan, and this is why we are here,” Renee Mastny said after the hearing. “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.”

Jimmy Mastny told the Northwest Herald on Thursday that he was informed two days before his first match that he was not able to wrestle. He has missed 20 of the 45 matches so far. The wrestling season runs through Feb. 17.

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

For about six years, Jimmy’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.

Jimmy participated in a wrestling camp at Marian in 2020 with a former coach, but it wasn’t until after touring the school last May that 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 they had toured other private schools. When her son told her he wanted to go to Marian, she said she responded by telling him they’d “figure it out.”

During Thursday’s hearing, Timothy Brandner, a 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 [Jimmy] 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” to provide evidence indicating that Stacey Blanton offered to have Jimmy live in her home for the sake of wrestling at Marian.

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

Regardless of whether the coach is her son, Stacey Blanton did not offer her home to Jimmy as a recruiting effort, Bradner said, adding no such discussions were ever had, Stacey Blanton is not a recruiter for Marian’s wrestling team, and she is not an employee of Marian.

“[The] IHSA ignored the fact that there was no intent to recruit,” Brandner said. “They just assumed something hinky was going on. But they found nothing and closed the investigation.”

The attorney for the IHSA, Kenneth Vanko, based his argument on IHSA bylaw 3.072, which falls under 3.070 forbidding high school sports recruiting.

The bylaw reads that it should be a violation for any student-athlete to receive or be offered remunerations or inducement not made available to all students. One of the inducements includes residence with anyone connected to the school.

The next court date is scheduled for Jan. 5.

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