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315-Pound Wrestler Ordered Benched

December 6, 1985

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (AP) _ A high school senior who weighs more than William ″The Refrigerator″ Perry has been told he can’t compete in wrestling for fear he may hurt his opponents.

Lyle ″Pooh″ Burrell will be on the sidelines trying to shed weight when the Mount Clemens High School wrestling team opens its season next week.

The National Federation of State High School Associations has barred Burrell from wrestling because he weighs 315 pounds - 40 pounds over the 275- pound limit imposed this year.

But his classmates say he’s a gentle person, only aggressive on the football field and wrestling mat.

″I don’t think he endangers anybody. I’ve been wrestling him since I was a freshman and I haven’t been hurt,″ said Phil Abdoo, a 198-pound wrestler on the Mount Clemens team.

Bill Regnier, wrestling coach at Class A champion Temperance-Bedford, said he also thinks the 6-foot-1 Burrell should be allowed to compete.

″You don’t see a 7-footer disqualified in basketball or you don’t see a 420-pound kid not allowed to play football because he will come up against someone who weighs 180,″ Regnier said.

Burrell, who had a 37-10-2 record last season and also played defensive tackle on the Bathers’ football team, is trying to speed up his return to the mat by substituting salad for his favorite foods - fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. He fasts every other day and wears a rubber suit during workouts to help sweat the weight off.

″I think the ruling is kind of silly. But I am not going to stop trying to lose weight,″ he said.

Burrell is nicknamed ″Pooh″ because when he was born, his mother, Gene, said ‴This is my little Winnie the Pooh.‴ At birth, Burrell weighed 5 pounds, 10 ounces, but he grew ″because he likes to eat,″ Mrs. Burrell said.

Fritz McGinness, editor of the high school wrestling rules book, said the national weight limit was passed to reduce injuries.

″By putting a cap on it, it makes it more of a ‘wrestling’ weight class rather than one that can be won by how much you weigh,″ McGinness said.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has adopted a similar rule, effective next year, he added.

″For a youngster to be that obese at that young an age is not healthy,″ said Lonnie Lowery, assistant director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. ″And in head-to-head competition we need to reduce the difference in weights.″

Burrell’s coach, Larry Waters, said the ruling is discriminatory and he plans to challenge it in court.

″What we hope to do is to get a court injunction to allow the kids to wrestle until the court decides,″ Walters said. ″It looks to me as if he is being discriminated against because of his weight. It seems as if it should be against the Constitution.″

Mount Clemens School Superintendent James Drue said he would consider this week whether to assign school lawyers to a possible suit.