Bradley Athletic Director Turner Jackson said the incident was startling for those in attendance.
According to Jackson, the gym was only lit from a single overhead ceiling lamp situated above the wrestling mat. The rest of the arena was dim in comparison.
After the first Cleveland pin of the match, five to 10 students reportedly let off the confetti cannons.
Jackson said the firecracker noise sounded like gunshots. The effect was further strengthened due to the dimly lit arena. Attendees were unable to see the confetti flying from the cannons.
“I have never had fireworks in our gym, so I cut the lights on and I tried to make an announcement and I tried to communicate with [Cleveland’s] athletic director Eric Phillips,” Jackson said. “…Everyone was in shock, except for the [Cleveland] student section who knew what was happening.”
According to Cleveland Principal Autumn O’Bryan, immediate action was taken following the confetti cannon use Thursday night.
School administrators requested the student turn over any remaining cannons. Students were then requested to stay afterward to clean up the confetti.
Jackson said the same confetti cannons were used at a Cleveland basketball game against Walker Valley held in Lee University’s Walker Arena on Tuesday.
TSSAA was contacted to ensure Cleveland students did not bring the cannons to another sporting event.
Gene Menees of TSSAA said he contacted Cleveland High on Friday morning to address the noise concern.
He explained there are to be no artificial noisemakers at any indoor athletic events. Artificial noisemakers include everything from pennies in a jug and clappers to air horns and confetti cannons. Menees explained it was a nationwide rule.
He spoke with Cleveland administrators at length. He asked them to tell their student bodies artificial noise makers are not permitted within the gym. He said if it happens again, they will go to the next step.
“When we call a school, it is not just a matter for that school. The same thing could happen the next night in [another city],” Menees said. “We just want to make administrations aware of what is or is not expected, and 99 percent of the time they do what needs to be done.”
He expressed confidence the Cleveland administration would “grab the bull by the horns” and take care of the issue.
O’Bryan confirmed she spoke with Menees.
“We have a great working relationship with Bradley [Central High School]. I’m not quite sure why the TSSAA was involved, but we have already talked with them regardless,” O’Bryan said.
“There is no violation. There is no fine. We just want to communicate to the kids that we do not want [confetti cannons] to be brought in the future.”
She assured that the confetti cannons in questions are not fireworks. She said the items were purchased from Hobby Lobby.
She described the celebratory devices as “releases with confetti.”
A discussion with students Friday morning promised disciplinary action for anyone who let off a confetti cannon in the future.
O’Bryan said the talk with the students took place prior to the call from TSSAA.
Menees reportedly believed the devices to be fireworks prior to O’Bryan’s explanation of the Hobby Lobby purchase.
“There was no penalty language used,” O’Bryan said. “If there was another issue then TSSAA would contact us to see how it was handled.”
Walker Valley Athletic Director Mike Turner said he has also witnessed the use of confetti cannons by Cleveland students at sporting events.
He said his main concern was for the amount of confetti released by the devices. It can be difficult to get every piece picked up, according to Turner.
He explained his thoughts on the matter was straightforward.
“If whoever you are playing doesn’t want you to do it, then you shouldn’t do it,” Turner said.
Jackson explained students sometimes can have their own agenda.
“I get it. Sometimes high school kids will not do exactly what administration wants them to do it,” Jackson said. “I get that. I’m not stupid. But when it happens at the Walker Valley basketball game and the [Bradley Central] wrestling match, I think it’s gotta be better than that.”
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff said the situation was teenagers being teenagers.
“It is a learning process. It is not a firing squad process. It is not a situation that rises to the occasion of major sanctions,” Ringstaff said. “We are very proud of our Rowdy Raiders [cheer section]. They are like the sixth man in basketball.”
Ringstaff continued, “We don’t condone some of the behaviors, but you deal with them as they happen.”
He said he did not believe the issue required the involvement of the TSSAA.
O’Bryan and Ringstaff both shared a desire to keep the rivalry with Bradley Central at a healthy level.
“We had a great competition [Thursday] night,” O’Bryan said. “Our wrestlers did good things last night and Bradley’s kids did good things last night. Focusing on the kids is the best thing we can do.”