From last season's rules:
Rule 4-2-1: During competition, all wrestlers shall be clean shaven with sideburns trimmed no lower than earlobe level and hair trimmed and well groomed. The hair, in its natural state, shall not extend below the top of an ordinary shirt collar in the back; and on the sides, the hair shall not extend below earlobe level; in the front, the hair shall not extend below the eyebrows.
Source: 2018-19 NFHS Wrestling Rules Book
4.2.1 Situation E: Wrestler A appears at weigh-ins with hair in tight cornrows. After making the prescribed weight, the wrestler indicates no desire to undo the hair, as it takes time and is expensive to have performed. RULING: This is permissible if the hair is covered by a legal hair cover that is attached to the ear guards. COMMENT: A legal hair cover is intended to allow a wrestler to compete with hair longer than permitted by rule. A referee cannot assume the hairstyle meets the prescribed rule, therefore should a wrestler choose not to meet the rule, a legal hair cover attached to the ear guards shall be required and approved at weigh-ins.
Source: 2018-19 NFHS Wrestling Case Book
I hate to beat a dead horse, but It seems that the whole thing boils down to what the term "natural state" is supposed to mean.
Up till now, I have assumed that it meant the hair could not be manipulated in a manner such as braiding or pinning or banding, and then gravity would determine whether the hair went below the collar, earlobe, or eyebrows.
Per 4.2.1 Situation E, in the NFHS Wrestling Case Book, this seems to be the case, indicating that the hair had to be inspected WITHOUT it being manipulated, and that the cornrows described in Situation E had to be undone in order for proper inspection of hair length.
Hence, according to the interpretation above, Andrew Johnson's hair was NOT in its natural state because it was braided/dredlocked, and therefore had to have a legal hair covering (which he did not have). And hence, Alan Mahoney's application of the rule was indeed correct.
Yet the New Jersey DCR states that "In particular, they seek to eliminate any interpretation of Rule 4.2.1 that allowed wrestling officials to determine that traditionally black hairstyles were 'unnatural' or to subject wrestlers with traditionally black hairstyles to differential treatment as to when a haircover was required."
But the above rule and its case book application, which were the rule at the time of last December's incident, make NO mention of the race of the wrestler, just that the hair was not in its natural, unmanipulated state!
Does anyone here have any better insight as to what "natural state" refers to beyond what is stated in the rules? It seems they just threw the official under the bus for doing his job.