ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A champion wrestler suspended from school after being accused of shaking down another student for $15 was back on the mat at the state tournament within 24 hours, Albuquerque Public Schools officials have confirmed.
Rio Grande High wrestler Nick Chavez suited up Friday for the state tournament held at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
He initially wasn't supposed to be there because school officials suspended him the day before.
"When you're suspended from school you're suspended from extra curricular activities," APS Chief Operating Officer Brad Winter said.
Winter said Chavez is accused of bullying a student for his lunch money at school Thursday.
"That's information that we received from the victim and the from the school deputy, who was on site when this happened," Winter said.
However, Friday morning a District Court judge in an emergency hearing overruled the APS decision and lifted the athlete's suspension.
"We are disappointed in the decision of the judge," Winter said.
So how did it get this far? KRQE News 13 learned Chavez and his parents had some advice from some high-powered officials.
Bernalillo County Commissioner Art de la Cruz, a volunteer wrestling coach at Rio Grande High, stepped in by first trying to get the district to overturn its decision. He said he even called APS Board of Education Member Analee Maestas. He said she tried to intervene, too.
De la Cruz said he had good reason to help out the student athlete.
"I do know he is a promising athlete, but more importantly I believe he's going to get a scholarship by a university to wrestle," de la Cruz said.
Chavez is last year's state champ. He is also undefeated this year.
De la Cruz said Chavez told him it was all a misunderstanding and he and the other wrestler were only messing around. He said the star athlete should have had due-process before the suspension, meaning he should be allowed on the mat until he has a hearing with APS.
The district said that is not its policy.
"I think the school was a little premature that they would suspend a young man, especially since there was a tournament right now," de la Cruz said.
The district said tournaments don't matter. They've suspended other athletes for accusations of wrongdoing like underage drinking.
"We will treat them all the same whether they are a star athlete or not," Winter said.
Chavez was not charged although KRQE News 13 has heard he could still face criminal charges.
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