Byron football player charged with battery after incident on bus
BYRON – A star Byron football player and wrestler was charged this week with misdemeanor battery after he was accused in November of placing his penis on the face of a sleeping fellow student on a bus ride home after losing a state football title game in Champaign.
Ricky Messling, 18, of Byron, one of a trio of Byron football players who rushed for more than 1,000 yards during the 2018 season, was arrested Wednesday and released on $100 bail. Messling, a senior, will be arraigned Jan. 18.
Authorities say the incident is unrelated to the suspension of 10 Byron football players after a so-called Oreo run on Oct. 26, in which players raced naked across the football field with an Oreo cookie wedged in their buttocks. The players were suspended three games for indecent exposure.
Byron Police Chief Todd Murray said his office began investigating the incident on the chartered bus after being contacted Nov. 25 by the teen and his parents.
Murray said it took place toward the back of the bus where only a couple of students could witness it and coaches weren’t able to see it happen. The incident was not believed by authorities to have constituted a sex assault.
“The investigation was turned over to us and we reviewed it and determined there was enough to charge him with battery,” Ogle County State’s Attorney Eric Morrow said Wednesday. “There is no indication these two incidents are related, though.”
Despite what he considered firm discipline and a stern message from the school district to the players about their behavior after the Oreo run, Murray said some of the students appeared to lack an understanding of the “gravity of the situation.”
“You would think (the suspensions) would resonate with the kids,” Murray said. “Apparently not this one.”
Byron School District Superintendent Buster Barton didn’t immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment. Messling didn’t immediately respond to efforts to reach him for comment and no lawyer was yet listed as his representative in electronic Ogle County Courthouse records.
School officials ultimately decided that the Oreo run was not a case of hazing. It took place the night before the Tigers kicked off the IHSA football playoffs with a 50-14 drubbing of Rock Island Alleman. Undefeated Byron dominated opponents on the way to the state title game, where the Tigers suffered their first and only loss of the season.
All nine football coaches and nearly 30 members of the football team were interviewed in the school’s investigation of the Oreo run. No complaint was filed with local police.
Players who participated in the Oreo run were suspended for playoff games on Nov. 10, 17 and 23, the last of which was the Class 3A state championship game, which Byron lost 24-20 to Monticello. None of the team’s top players was suspended.