As a USA Wrestling national team member, Richard Perry went from pinning people on the mat to nearly losing his life in a training accident.
“He was in a coma for many, many weeks. He ended up having paralysis to the left side of his body," said Robert Francavilla, the lead trial attorney on the case.
A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims Perry suffered the potentially career-ending injury in August 2018 at Camp Pendleton during the Marine Corps and USA Wrestling’s joint team World Team Training Camp for civilian wrestlers.
Pictures show Perry taking part in what's described in the complaint as a "fight club" style, full contact, military weapons training, unrelated to wrestling.
Francavilla said “Suffice is to say, there would have been some penalties associated with not going.”
The complaint claims the civilians wrestlers who weren’t trained for the exercise, were instructed by Marine Corps members and USA Wrestling representatives to use padded batons to hit their opponent's head and face to score a "kill shot."
Perry took a shot to the eye from a fellow wrestler that caused brain damage.
"It went through shattered bones in his eye orbit then penetrated into actually brain tissue, " said Francavilla.
Though safety rules are in place, the complaint claims they weren't followed.
While others were given helmets and face masks with a tight grid for facial protection, Perry was given one with large openings around his eyes, allowing the metal portion of the baton to slip from its padding and hit him in the eye, the lawsuit claims.
Pictures from the complaint show ripped padding and claims the batons and equipment “aren't inspected” or are “negligently inspected or maintained.”
"They give off the appearance that they really can't hurt, you know, but obviously they’re gearing them up and giving them this false sense of security you're being protected, " said Francavilla.
According to 2nd Lt. Charlotte Dennis at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, “Because the incident in question is the subject of ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”
After months in a San Diego hospital, then learning to walk again, the now 30-year-old father is back east with his wife and three children. His 2021 Olympic dreams are likely on hold.