HomeSportsChael Sonnen Defends Youth Wrestler Who Went Viral for Sucker Punching Opponent

Chael Sonnen Defends Youth Wrestler Who Went Viral for Sucker Punching Opponent

by Barkley Truax
Chael Sonnen
(Photo by Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images)

Former MMA fighter and analyst Chael Sonnen is defending the youth wrestler that recently went viral for punching his opponent after a loss. But not in the way you think.

Sonnen’s sympathy doesn’t stem from encouraging the behavior. Instead, from hoping that a sport like wrestling could prevent situations like this from happening to the young man again.

“I would tell you as a coach, the worst thing that a young man should have is free time,” Sonnen said. “It’s probably one of the reasons that his parents got him enrolled and enlisted him in something like wrestling in the first place.”

Hafid Alicea, an 8th-grader who competes for Maine West (IL) wanted no part in the post-match tradition. Instead, he went and sucker punched his opponent, Cooper Corder of SPAR Academy, in the face after losing 14-2 in a tournament’s 125-128-pound freestyle third-place match.

More on the Incident Involving the Youth Wrestler

The incident occurred during the “Beat The Streets” tournament on April 8 at Oak Park River Forest H.S. in Oak Park, Illinois. The middle schooler from SPAR Academy suffered a nose injury from the punch. He must wear a face mask at upcoming tournaments until it heals.

An Oak Park Police Dept. spokesperson said the incident is under investigation. Parents of both 8th-graders are cooperating. No one could believe Alicea’s impulse, and his coach and a parent immediately came to the winner’s aid.

Catch the shocking moment below:

One of the victim’s coaches gave an update on his injured wrestler in the days following the incident:

“He is making the best of the situation and is already back to training.” SPAR Academy founder Justin Pearch told TMZ on Tuesday. “As you may know, wrestling matches can get heated but nothing leading up to the punch would give cause to such bad decision-making on the opponent’s part. It’s not tolerated in our sport and SPAR Wrestling will never condone that behavior.”

Corder is doing okay, according to one of his coaches, but the incident has no place on a wrestling mat. Youth wrestling is meant to teach strength, competition and discipline. Alicea displayed none of those three attributes while getting his tail whipped on the mat. 

He might have lost via major decision (12 points), but Corder was three back points from tech-falling (15 points) Alicea. Instead, Corder allowed mercy on his opponent, and Alicea refused to show it back.