Chael Sonnen says he was disgusted by the viral video of a youth wrestler sucker punching an opponent after a match … but tells TMZ Sports the kid should NOT be permanently banned from the sport.
Of course, a 14-year-old SPAR Academy wrestler was hit with a vicious punch after beating his opponent in a local wrestling tourney at Oak Park River Forest H.S. in Illinois on April 8th.
Video of the incident went viral, and many believe the puncher should receive an indefinite ban after the cheap shot that injured the wrestler’s nose.
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But, Sonnen — a former college All-American wrestler and MMA legend who currently runs his own submission grappling promotion — feels otherwise, believing a ban will not help the situation.
“I would tell you as a coach, the worst thing that a young man should have is free time,” Sonnen told us. “It’s probably one of the reasons that his parents got him enrolled and enlisted him in something like wrestling in the first place.”
“To kick the kid out and have him just roaming the streets and doing something else I think should be given a real consideration.”
“This was a terrible moment, but it could also be a teachable moment.”
The 46-year-old, rather than burying the kid, is instead showing empathy, saying he doesn’t want the young man’s entire life judged off a five-second clip.
“We don’t know the rest of the story. For sure it was terrible action but to ban a kid for life, I think there’s a discussion that at least deserves to be had.”
Sonnen also feels for the injured wrestler … though Chael points out wrestling’s a physical sport, and competitors sometimes lose their tempers.
“The gentleman that you saw getting hit likely has lost his temper before, too. Maybe it was at practice, maybe he didn’t hit quite as hard, maybe it wasn’t caught and shown to the world but it’s a very normal thing in wrestling,” Sonnen said.
“Wrestlers tend to forgive other wrestlers and I bet if you asked that kid that was hit, what he wants to see happen, he does not tell you ban that kid or put him in jail.”
Oak Park Police Department is currently investigating the incident. As for any potential ban, officials have not yet decided what punishment the kid will face.