High school wrestler helps thwart abduction of classmate

A high school wrestler in suburban Cincinnati stepped in to prevent an attempted kidnapping of a classmate on school grounds Monday.

Cody Hardin, a junior on the wrestling team at Conner High School in Hebron, Kentucky, was walking from the nearby vocational school to Conner when a female classmate rushed past him ... followed by Benjamin Margitza, an 18-year-old man from Las Vegas who had flown to the nearby Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky International Airport reportedly with the intent of kidnapping her and taking her home with him.

The girl had become the target of Margitza's increasingly obsessive, sexually-oriented social media harassment since the beginning of 2019. Even when she blocked him and changed her phone number, Margitza messaged friends, followers and people she followed.

Margitza arrived at Conner, knowing the girl he was pursuing was a student there, to try to convince her to come with him to Las Vegas ... when Conner wrestler Cody Hardin stepped in between the two.

Hardin said he tried to persuade Margitza to leave the girl alone ... without success. When it became clear Margitza intended to follow her into the school, the member of the Cougar wrestling team stepped between them ... and tried to guide the would-be victim towards the school to get help.

Here's how Hardin described the situation to WKRC-TV, the CBS affiliate in Cincinnati: "She walked past us and the guy walked past us and they met up at the sidewalk and she's all, 'Get him away from me!' So I grabbed her by the shoulders and walked her to the front door. And he tried to get in the school, and I said three or four times, 'I wouldn't do that.' And then he finally said, 'Why?' And I grabbed him by the back of the neck and I said, 'I wouldn't do that.' And I made sure the door was closed so he wouldn't get into that school."

Once Hardin and the girl were inside, they found the principal and the school resource officer, who quickly arrested Margitza before he could leave school grounds.

In an interview with ABC affiliate WCPO-TV, Hardin admitted he was shaking immediately after the incident, saying, "My adrenaline was running."

The next day, the school principal and district superintendent both thanked Hardin for his actions. Then, on Wednesday, Conner High Principal Andy Wyckoff issued the following statement:

"Conner High School would like to publicly recognize Joseph 'Cody' Hardin for his quick thinking and action in keeping his fellow students safe in the incident on 8/19/19. When it seems so many pull out a cell phone and record a 'wrong' going on in the world, Cody took the correct action and performed a 'right'. He immediately helped avert a threat, and got himself and others to safety. Cody will receive rewards through our PBIS System for helping his fellow students."

While Cody Hardin is being hailed as a hero, Benjamin Margitza is now in the Boone County Jail, charged with attempted kidnapping and trespassing.

Conner High School is part of a four-school campus which also includes the Boone County Area Technology Center in Hebron, Kentucky, all within sight of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky International Airport, and across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. Conner High has an enrollment of approximately 1,400 students.


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