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High School Wrestler Who Was Called ‘Quitter’ Wins $4,500 Settlement

January 19, 1987

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ One of five students who were labeled ″quitters″ in a high school yearbook caption accompanying a photo of a wrestling team has been paid $4,500 to settle a libel claim.

Frank Gagliardi, now a senior at Moon Valley High School, received the money from the Industrial Indemnity Co., insurance carrier for the Glendale Union High School District.

″We just think it was an unfortunate incident and we’re glad the whole thing is settled,″ David Santellanes, the school’s principal, said Monday.

Gagliardi was the only student to file a claim regarding the photograph of the junior-varsity wrestling team that appeared in the 1985-86 yearbook. The caption used the names of most of the students, but the five were identified simply as ″a quitter.″

Gagliardi was ″shocked and humiliated″ when the yearbook came out, according to a letter from his attorney seeking a $10,000 award from the district.

″As a result of this defamation, Frank’s reputation within the high school community has been impugned,″ said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Arizona Republic.

The $4,500 settlement was agreed to last year at a meeting between Santellanes, Gagliardi and his parents.

The Republic said Gagliardi declined to discuss his case, saying he feared it would ″hurt the school’s image.″

Attempts by The Associated Press to reach him for comment Monday were unsuccessful. There was no answer at any residences listed under the Gagliardi name.

According to his claim, he wrestled on the junior-varsity team but missed some time because of a sprained neck and then did not receive a practice schedule issued by the coach at the start of the Christmas break. His attorneys’ letter said that he did not learn he had missed the practices until the break was almost over.

Santellanes said it was unclear how the caption got into print.

Rick-Alan Kerr, editor of the yearbook, said Ray Clark, who was coach of the junior-varsity team, supplied the names of the wrestlers to the sports editors and indicted which ones did not compete the whole season. But he said Clark had not asked that the boys in question be termed ″quitters,″ and was ″very upset that it had happened.″

Kerr said he and the yearbook adviser normally checked the pages after receiving the completed proofs from the sports editors, but had not done so in this case.

Both editors of the sports pages, Dawn Valery and Heather Reutter, declined to discuss the matter with reporters.

One of the other students labeled a quitter told the Republic he left the team because of personal problems. The youth, who was not identified by the newspaper, said he was upset by the label but not angry enough to seek damages.