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Phillipsburg wrestlers pulled from tournament after controversial photo

By Will Lewis, Reporter, WLewis@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 20 2014 05:00:20 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 20 2014 06:26:28 PM CST

Controversy, outrage, and now seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers are down for the count, suspended from the district tournament.

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

Controversy, outrage, and now seven Phillipsburg High School wrestlers are down for the count, suspended from the district tournament.

That's after they were linked to a controversial photo, but they're ready to tell their side of the story.

For some who haven't seen the photo, it's still a shock.

“I don’t know if it’s a racist thing, but that’s what I thought immediately,” said Stewartsville, NJ resident, Anna Wagner.

Seven wrestlers from Phillipsburg high school pictured here with a wrestling dummy hanging from a noose, and wearing a rival school's shirt.

“To be honest I really don’t think that they were trying to come across as being racist, but I don’t know that for sure,” said former Phillipsburg High student, Ashley Thorpe.

Phillipsburg High School and District officials started an investigation two days ago.

Last night the wrestlers were removed from this weekend's District tournament.

In a statement through an attorney, the Phillipsburg Board of education says, "The administration conducted a thorough investigation of the recent allegations and, with the information at hand, took the necessary actions to hold accountable those involved."

“They’ve got to have some kind of consequences," added Nancy Frey, from Phillipsburg. "In this day and age, children expect to get away with everything, time that parents and children realize there are consequences for their actions.”

“If they didn’t mean it, they didn’t mean it, so I don’t think we should punish them so fully,” added Thorpe.

No matter the opinion, some say this photo could hurt the teens down the road.

“They’re going to look at high school and they’re going to see racial profiling or racism is under their belt," said Thorpe "We can’t accept them and you know that is unfortunate because it’s going to haunt them the rest of their lives.”

The seven wrestlers have called a news conference at their attorney's office Thursday night to explain the photo.