1) We see a video from one angle. And, we are not on that mat or in that moment live. So, what we are experiencing is removed from the actual events on the mat, and we just need to keep that in mind.
2) We see the Davis wrestler defending against a leg attack, and pulling back his right knee and then bringing it forward to contact the head of the ML wrestler. The knee appears to be drawn back about 1 foot (just estimating based on this angle).
3) The referee immediately stops the action. Not shown on the video, but apparently the referee awards an Unnecessary Roughness penalty, not a Flagrant Misconduct.
4) If there was Recovery Time for the ML kid, apparently he decided to continue the match.
5) Apparently, the ML coaches did not request a conference at the moment action stopped to award the Unnecessary Roughness to request the referee to change the call. That conference would have been the place for coaches to express their belief that the rules were misapplied, and that the action should be declared as Flagrant Misconduct.
6) Coaches Conferences and Coach Misconduct are defined in Rules 5-5, 6-6-6, and 7-5-4 (I know, the needless redundancy of the Rules Book is problematic). Nowhere do any of these rules prescribe that the conference must be requested at the first stoppage following the call which the coach believes to be a rules misapplication. These rules do not specify, but definitely imply, that the conference should take place DURING the match - not outside of the match. The concept of a "PROTEST" appears nowhere in the NFHS Rules Book - the protest is a construct which applies to how the State Association (WIAA in the State of Washington) wants to operate. But, the protest has no rules basis and nothing in the Rules Book guides the handling of a protest.
7) Rule 7-4-1 defines Unnecessary Roughness (UR). To quote the text from the rule itself:
"Unnecessary Roughness involves physical acts that occur during wrestling. It includes any act which exceeds normal aggressiveness. I would include, but it is not limited to, a forceful application of a crossface, a forceful trip or a forearm or ELBOW used in a punishing way, such as on the spine or THE BACK OF THE HEAD, a forceful slap to the head or face, and /or gouging or poking the eyes." I highlighted the elbow to the back of the head because it is pretty similar to a knee to the head (that part is an opinion, but I hope a reasonable one).
8) Rule 7-4-3 defines Flagrant Misconduct. To quote the rule:
"Flagrant Misconduct involves physical and nonphysical acts and they can occur before, during or after a match and is any act considered by the referee to be serious enough to disqualify a contestant from the match and any additional wrestling in the multiple school event. It is not limited to STRIKING, butting, ELBOWING, kicking, biting an opponent, or using any tobacco products." Again, I have highlighted the parts of the rule which may be similar to this particular incident.
9) Neither violation speaks about "intent" of the wrestler. So, that is not something a referee should even be trying to gauge - the referee should simply make rulings based on what they observe. A wrestler could have zero bad intent and still slam an opponent and break their neck. Or, a wrestler could have every intention of breaking one finger of the opponent, but is unable to even attempt the violation because the opponent has total control of the hands. So, everyone should basically illiminate the concept of "intent" from their discussion about the referee's ruling.
10) The first occurrence of UR = 1 match point to the opponent. The first occurrence of Flagrant Misconduct = ejection and minus 3 team points and removal of any team points earned by that wrestler in that competition. In Washington, the WIAA imposes a penalty for any competitor ejected from a contest that they must sit out the next competition their team is involved in. For the post season, ejection at District Tournament means sitting out the Regional Tournament - meaning your season is now over. Much hangs in the balance with issuing UR vs Flagrant Misconduct.
Those are just the facts and data. So, now my commentary:
There is an element of judgment in most every call a referee makes. There is zero judgment about whether the boundary line is in or out (it is "in" by rule), but there may be judgment involved as to whether the foot was touching 1 mm beyond the boundary line or is just at the very outer edge of the boundary line. There is no prescription in the rules I cited that declares that a "knee to the head" is objectively to be called as UR, or Flagrant Misconduct, or Unsportsmanlike Conduct, or nothing at all. Now the judgment of the official comes in, and we can all gauge for ourselves if that official's judgment is "reasonable". Shoulders close to 50 degrees to the mat could reasonably be judged as within 45 degrees (meaning Near Fall criteria has been met). However, shoulders close to 90 degrees to the mat could not be reasonably judged to be within 45 degrees.
In the brief video clip we see, the referee has judged that the use of the knee to the head, and the amount of force of the contact do not represent Flagrant Misconduct. Personally, limited to just this angle and not being on that mat, I find it reasonable for the official to reach that conclusion. The knee is not drawn back very far, and does not appear to strike the head with excessive force. It is a stupid thing to do to your opponent, it is illegal, and should be penalized. Nobody on this thread is condoning the action. But, should that action we just observed result in the wrestling version of the "death penalty"? Again, in my opinion, probably not. But, I could also support (as can the rules) if a referee decided that action was Flagrant Misconduct. I would lean toward Flagrant if he had drawn the knee back more like 2 feet and driven it much harder into the opponent's head.
The coaches, if they disagreed with a penalty of UR should have conducted a conference at the table with the Referee immediately after the Recovery Time concluded. If they didn't request a conference at that moment, then it indicates that they must not have felt the rule was misapplied - because the match should have been terminated if a Flagrant Misconduct happened and if they really believed the Flagrant was the appropriate call per the rules, they should have insisted that the referee reconsider his ruling BEFORE allowing the match to continue. Think about it - if you believe the opponent has committed the type of heinous act which would warrant a Flagrant Misconduct and immediate ejection, why would you sit by idly and allow the match to resume with an opponent who has now demonstrated that they no longer should be competing at this event?
Bottom line - I think the referee in the video has made an acceptable call and the coaches had the opportunity during the match to seek redress - but they must not have exercised that opportunity. Since there is definitely judgment, and not any objective measure, which guides the ruling of UR vs Flagrant, then a conference likely would have resulted in the referee keeping his ruling in place and penalizing the coaches with Coach Misconduct for questioning his judgment (or simply because no rule was misapplied).