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Past Olympic hopeful is suing Marine Corps for traumatic injury during ‘fight club’ exercise

U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Trae Neumann, a Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston corrections specialist, hits a fellow Marine with a training baton during a Marine Corps Martial Arts Program training Feb. 7, 2013, at Joint Base Charleston – Weapons Station, S.C. (U. S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi)

A Lancaster resident who helped boost Philadelphia’s growing wrestling scene is suing the Marine Corps after suffering a bizarre traumatic injury at a California base last year.

Rich Perry, 29, a former Division I wrestler for Bloomsburg University, was one of the nation’s top freestyle wrestlers and was based out of the Pennsylvania Regional Training Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In August 2018, Perry attended the U.S. Wrestling Men’s Freestyle World Team Camp at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

According to a lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court for the District of Southern California, he and other wrestlers were asked to take part in Marine-like training exercises along with wrestling. During one of those exercises, Perry wore a helmet and wielded a baton, and was asked to attack and defend against a combatant with the same weapon.

“Striking with weapons is not part of the sport of wrestling,” the lawsuit states. “Neither is learning to kill.”

Perry was not wearing a fully-masked helmet. His opponent was. According to the lawsuit, Perry’s training partner jabbed the baton through the gaps in his helmet, shattering his eye socket and skull, and pushing shattered bone fragments into his brain, causing catastrophic injuries.

Perry, according to the lawsuit, required brain surgery and reconstruction, and will need “extensive future medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and life care for the rest of his life. “

Neither the Marine Corps nor USA Wrestling could be reached for comment.

The lawsuit contends that the Marine Corps knew the training exercise was potentially dangerous and that USA Wrestling required the team to take part. The manufacturer of the baton, a metal rod surrounded by a pad, is also named as a defendant because the pad tore away during the exercise.

The lawsuit said the wrestlers were required to attend the military-style camp and those who chose not to would have been subject to “adverse consequences,” including losing their stipend.

Perry, who is married with three children, placed in the top six at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Iowa, going 3-2. He finished his career at Bloomsburg with a record of 110-30.


© 2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer