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Wrestler Files Lawsuit Against Ex-Coach : Jurisprudence: Negligence that resulted in an injury during practice at Savanna is alleged.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A high school wrestler is suing his former coach and school district for an injury 10 months ago that removed him from varsity competition and delayed his graduation.

Rory O’Neal, 18, a senior, is suing the Anaheim Union High School District and former wrestling Coach Tom Caspari for negligence after suffering a dislocated shoulder while practicing with the Savanna High team last October.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 25 in Orange County Superior Court, seeks in excess of $25,000 in compensatory damages for hospital and medical expenses, general damages and emotional distress.

The suit alleges that Caspari allowed a student to supervise part of an out-of-season workout Oct. 20, 1992, and that O’Neal injured his shoulder while demonstrating a drill at the request of the student.

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The suit also alleges that O’Neal did not get expedient medical care, nor was consideration given for a shoulder injury he had suffered the previous June.

O’Neal’s attorney, Lon Hurwitz, said the varsity heavyweight wrestler has had one operation and will probably have another. Hurwitz also alleges the injury prevented O’Neal from graduating with his class; he will repeat his senior year, Hurwitz said.

“He will not be able to wrestle this year,” Hurwitz said. “At this point, we don’t know the extent to which Rory’s injuries are permanent.”

The lawsuit will likely be heard in mid-to-late 1994, Hurwitz said.

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“The school district has no comment at this time,” said Rita Newman, the assistant superintendent of business services.

Caspari, 30, resigned in June in the wake of a separate incident, leaving at the end of the school year after an investigation by Anaheim police. He was charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor child annoyance, pleaded not guilty June 28 and was released on his own recognizance. He has a pre-trial appearance scheduled Sept. 14 in North Orange County Municipal Court, with a trial date set for Sept. 21.

If found guilty, Caspari could face a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for each count.

“Because there are criminal charges pending, we can’t comment at this time,” said Caspari’s attorney, Paula Drake. “He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and we are in the process of doing an investigation of the charges.”

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Lt. Vince Howard, whose department handled the investigation, said the charges involved “inappropriate comments” Caspari made to students.

Attempts to reach Caspari have been unsuccessful.

Caspari coached the Rebels for six years and had one of the county’s most highly regarded programs. Savanna won the Southern Section Division 3-A title in 1991 and won or shared four consecutive Orange League titles.

He also coached the boys’ cross-country team and the school’s club surfing team. He was an assistant wrestling coach at Loara for four years before moving to Savanna.

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