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School wrestling team harmonious before shooting

Posted at 3:02 PM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-01 19:18:55-05

MADISON TOWNSHIP, Ohio - Darren Stevens sat in his Madison Jr./Sr. High School office during his lunch hour Tuesday afternoon wearing his Middletown Madison red polo shirt. He was in the midst of grabbing a slice of pizza in the nearby library.

Cars scattered the parking lot outside in a torrential downpour. Four news trucks lined up outside the entrance.

The front doors were unlocked, but four school staff members greeted visitors at the entrance. A crowd sat at tables inside the library.

This was no ordinary weekday to start March.

Stevens, the junior high and high school athletic director for the past eight years, was still coping with Monday’s shooting which happened on the other side of the building.

Everyone in the school community was finding solace in their own way. The next step was to have the students return to school Wednesday with a "new sense of normalcy," as Stevens put it.

James ‘Austin’ Hancock, 14, was arrested Monday and, if tried as an adult, will face two counts of attempted murder, two counts of felonious assault, inducing panic and making terrorist threats, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said.

Hancock denied those charges in court on Tuesday, which is the juvenile court equivalent of a not guilty plea. Hancock was ordered to have no contact with the alleged victims. A pretrial date will be set for April. 

Stevens, who is also the junior high assistant principal, said Hancock was a member of the junior high wrestling team.

“I was shocked,” Stevens said. “I had to look up his picture.”

Four teens are recovering after the shooting, which happened inside the school's cafeteria during lunchtime Monday.

Two of the victims played sports in the junior high, Stevens said. Cooper Caffrey, 14, suffered a gunshot wound while Katherine Doucette, 14, suffered a minor injury, authorities said.

Caffrey and Hancock were teammates on the junior high wrestling team that finished first in the Southwestern Buckeye League Buckeye division and fourth overall in the conference. Four teammates will be competing in the junior high state meet March 12-13 in Youngstown.

“Both kids are normal junior high students,” Stevens said. “They did not have issues with wrestling. Nothing stood out even to my wrestling coaches. There were no real issues with each other that we know of.”

Doucette played on the eighth-grade football team this past fall, Stevens said. He did not immediately know which position she played but it wasn’t a kicker. Caffrey also played football and was a lineman, Stevens said.

There are 140-150 students in the eighth grade in the junior high, Stevens said.

“Everybody is trying to stay together,” Stevens said.

The Madison High School varsity wrestling team is sending three wrestlers to Columbus this weekend for the individual state tournament at Ohio State. Stevens said the team is practicing Tuesday night off campus.

The Mohawks have junior Gunnar Dawson (42-8 at 160 pounds) and senior Nick Svarda (41-1 at 220 pounds) as state qualifiers. There is also an alternate. Svarda won the Division III state title at 195 pounds in 2015.

“They are really going about their business,” Stevens said.