With his high school football career in doubt, Struthers senior Luke Witkowski is attempting one last Hail Mary — by appealing to a different higher power.
Witkowski, who turned 19 on May 13, is seeking an injunction to allow him to play for the Wildcats this fall after being ruled ineligible by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
OHSAA bylaw 4-2-1 states that if a student enrolled in high school turns 19 before Aug. 1, that student is ineligible to participate in high school sports.
Exception 2 of this rule allows the commissioner to declare the student eligible if he has repeated any grade from kindergarten through third grade for purely academic reasons and does not pose a safety risk to himself or others; does not enjoy any advantages in terms of physical, mental or athletic maturity; does not affect the principles of competitive equity and there is no evidence of “redshirting” or academic dishonesty.
Witkowski moved to the United States from Poland at age 6 and repeated the third grade at Byzantine Catholic Central “due to the language and assimilation challenges he faced through no fault of his own,” according to his lawyer, Courtney Trimacco.
Witkowski, who also ran track in the spring, ran for 1,400 yards and 11 TDs last fall, earning first team all-district and third team all-Ohio honors.
He was declared ineligible for the 2014-15 season on March 31, a ruling that was upheld by the OHSAA’s appeals panel on June 3.
“Luke regrets having to seek such a Court Order, but as a young man who has come to love this country since he immigrated to America in the third grade, he believes that in the end justice will be done,” Trimacco said in a release. “It is unfortunate that the Ohio High School Athletic Association has chosen in this instance to so significantly depart from its mission statement of acting in a fair and equitable manner to foster life long values, good citizenship, ethics, and fair-play. Until a determination has been reached on his eligibility, Luke will refrain from commenting further on this matter.”