Omar Poratta, the former Palisades High School wrestling coach who ignited controversy in January by forfeiting an entire meet against Bethlehem Catholic High School, has sued the PIAA, alleging it defamed him and deprived him of a fair hearing.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association sanctioned Poratta in February after finding that his decision to pull out of the meet without notifying the association or school officials was unsportsmanlike conduct.
In its decision, the PIAA said that any school in its District XI that employed Poratta during the remainder of the 2014 season and the 2015 season would be banned from competing in the state championships.
In his lawsuit, filed Thursday in Northampton County Court, Poratta contends that the sanctions prevent him from coaching in Pennsylvania, cost him his job at Palisades High School, damaged his reputation and hurt his prospects of being employed as a coach in the future.
Poratta asks the court to order the PIAA to reverse the sanctions.
Palisades was scheduled to face Bethlehem Catholic Jan. 30 in the PIAA Class 2A District 11 team tournament when Poratta made his decision before the start of the meet to forfeit matches in all 10 weight classes.
In his suit, Poratta repeats his position first revealed at a PIAA hearing in February that he forfeited the meet because of concerns about the health of his team.
"Various wrestlers were battling flu symptoms and stomach viruses, one had recently lost significant weight, one had an injured elbow, one had recently sustained a concussion and two had recently returned from surgeries," the suit says.
He did not inform a PIAA representative and he did not notify Palisades Principal Richard Hefferman or athletic director Rebecca George because they were not present, the suit says.
He didn't speak to anyone "because everything happened so quickly. I was talking to the parents and talking to the kids. I didn't know the protocol. I had never done anything like that before. This guy's sick, this guy's beat up, this guy's whatever," Poratta said in the hearing.
The next day, District 11 committee Chairman Robert Hartman Jr. and PIAA Executive Director Robert Lombardi told reporters the decision to forfeit the matches was driven by Poratta's hostility toward the Bethlehem Catholic wrestling program, the suit says.
Poratta's suit alleges the PIAA failed to properly notify Poratta of the hearing where it reached its decision to sanction him and failed to specify what rules he was accused of breaking.
PIAA officials could not be reached for comment Thursday. Poratta's attorney, Matthew Deschler of Bethlehem, did not immediately return a call.
In the days after the forfeited meet, Poratta said the decision was not a political statement about the perceived recruiting practices of Bethlehem Catholic or any resentment over Golden Hawks coach Jeff Karam choosing not to weigh in some of his top performers.
Poratta said he only grew upset with Karam after it was over.
"Jeff didn't shake my kids' hands at the end of the match," Poratta said, "and I thought that was obviously disrespectful to my kids. He didn't even get out of his seat. He turned his body around and didn't even get up."