Sexual abuse in youth wrestling
A quick search for sexual abuse in youth wrestling on Google can reveal that “2% to 8% of minor-age athletes are victims of sexual abuse through their participation in sport. And 98% of sexual abusers in sports are coaches, instructors or teachers” (Source: Dittman 2018).
Justice for sexual abuse survivors in the sport of wrestling is as a result of victims who were brave enough to come forward and report on their crimes.
In San Ramon, California, Attorneys Robert Allard and Lauren Cerri represented a victim of high school wrestling coach and church youth group leader Kevin Lopez. Allard and Cerri worked to obtain a financial settlement for the victim. Lopez was also sentenced to more than 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to eight felony counts of lewd acts with children and other charges. Not only did both the school and church ignore complaints or fail to notify police, but Lopez had a history of sexual misconduct activity. He groomed his victims while working as a wrestling coach and used his position of trust to molest them.
In Bellwood, Pennsylvania, Ryan Blazier was arrested for raping a young girl and sexually abusing young male wrestlers at Bellwood-Antis Middle School. One victim described how Blazier would wrestle with the kids in “weird ways” and fondle their genitals. The coach used wrestling as a way to mask his deviant motives for sexual gratification. Blazier would also single out particular wrestlers to bring to a locked mat storage room to have private, one-on-one wrestling training. Blazier was discovered when a janitor heard screaming from a locked room and interrupted an in-progress sexual assault. The teen victim told investigators that Blazier threatened his family if he told anyone.
Coaches like Blazier and Lopez rely on institutions missing the boundary violations that lead to sexual abuse. In Blazier’s case, there was private one-on-one time, the locked storage room and the wrestling with kids.
Sexual abuse crimes usually involve more than just coaches. In many cases, the schools or organizations that hired them can be held liable.
Schools must do better to respond to complaints or allegations of sexual misconduct. In Lompoc, California, Lucia Mar Unified School District reached a $1.25 million settlement when wrestling coach Justin Magdaleno physically abused and sexually harassed five Nipomo High School female wrestlers. The victims also “accused the school district of burying the accusations against Magdaleno and negligent hiring practices.”
Schools and youth sports organizations must protect children from predator coaches. They need to take all complaints and accusations seriously and involve the police to investigate. Young athletes deserve protection from coaches wanting to do them harm. Our athlete abuse attorneys do just that — hold institutions accountable and protect sexual abuse victims and survivors.