No herpes for Gustine wrestlers

GUSTINE -- Wrestlers at Gustine High can't walk through the halls without hearing the word "herpes." For almost a week, they've felt ostracized at their own school.

"A leper is a good word for it," junior wrestler Jake Williams said. "That's exactly how it feels."

Williams and his 12 teammates say they've faced ridicule and humiliation after school administrators -- acting without principal Dennis Shaw on campus -- announced to teachers and students over the intercom there was an outbreak of herpes at the school.

"We can't walk down the hallway without someone yelling 'herpes,' " senior wrestler Zane Atkins said. "Kids, teachers who usually shake our hand, they don't want anything to do with us."

As it turned out, the administrators jumped the gun -- and were incorrect. None of the wrestlers contracted herpes gladiatorum.

The flap began Jan. 10, when school officials met with three students regarding skin rashes.

"These students were seen by medical professionals, cleared to attend school, and to resume normal activities," the school announced via press release Wednesday.

"One of these students received treatment for possible herpes gladiatorum."

One wrestler said he came back from a medical clinic in Livermore and told Gustine assistant principal John Bussard the rash was either herpes gladiatorum or staphylococcus aureus -- a common type of staph infection found in wrestling.

The two other wrestlers went to a local medical clinic in Gustine for tests. When all the results came back Monday, they revealed the students had staphylococcus aureus.

However, before the official diagnosis came out this week, school administrators already had gone into panic mode.

"It's ridiculous what happened to these kids," said Alma Cruz, who has a son on the team.. "I think (school administrators) jumped to conclusions too quick."