IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Two University of Iowa wrestlers were suspended from the team Wednesday after police said they admitted to illegally hunting rabbits in hopes of making rabbit-skin caps.
Police said Alex Meyer and Connor Ryan, both freshmen, were arrested Tuesday night after they inadvertently caused a campus security scare. A security officer saw two men, including one with a long gun, near the nursing building, and officers were sent to search the area.
University police considered activating its Hawk Alert System - which blasts students and employees with text messages and recorded calls to warn of emergencies - but declined after officers could not confirm a report of a man with a gun, associate director of public safety David Visin said.
Officers later found the two wrestlers in Hillcrest Residence Hall and discovered rabbit skins in Meyer's dormitory.
Meyer and Ryan each admitted to hunting with friends on campus using air rifles, which typically discharge pellets or BBs. Each explained that they went hunting Saturday and again Tuesday because they wanted "to make hats," according to criminal complaints filed against them.
They killed an unspecified number of rabbits and police seized at least two air rifles, which are not allowed on campus, Visin said.
Meyer and Ryan were both charged with violating a municipal code by discharging air rifles within city limits, a simple misdemeanor punishable with anywhere from a $65 fine to 30 days in jail; and cited for violating a state law that bans hunting after dark, which carries a $93 fine. Meyer was also cited for hunting without a license, a $100 infraction.
Athletic director Gary Barta said the wrestlers were suspended indefinitely and will face potential disciplinary action under conduct codes for students and athletes. Further information about their status will not be released "until a definitive outcome is realized," he said.
Meyer is from the Des Moines suburb of Pleasant Hill and wrestles at 174 pounds, according to his team biography. He won the 170-pound state championship as a senior at Southeast Polk High School. Ryan wrestles at 141 and 149 and was a four-time state champion runner-up during his career at Bettendorf High School.
Neither has wrestled in a match so far this season for Iowa, which is 3-0 and is preparing for a competition in Iowa City on Saturday.
Iowa has a storied wrestling program, which has played a dominant role in the sport since the 1970s. The Hawkeyes have won 23 of the last 38 NCAA championships and produced a string of All-Americans and individual champions.
Meyer's mother, Lorna, said she had no details on her son's arrest. A message for Ryan on Wednesday wasn't returned.
State Department of Natural Resources spokesman Mick Klemesrud said rabbit hunting season runs from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28 and the sport is most common in the pastures and timbers of southern Iowa. He said the sport has long helped introduce kids to hunting, but has declined significantly in popularity in recent years.
Klemesrud said the wrestlers could have found a place to legally hunt rabbits at several wildlife areas near Iowa City.
"If they want to hunt rabbits, they can come out to the countryside, either knock on doors and ask for permission to go on private land or come to our public areas," he said. "But you can't hunt in town."
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