MINERVA, Ohio — Two wrestling coaches at Minerva Middle School are facing charges for their conduct that left a young wrestler injured.
An investigation by Minerva police began when the parents of the then 12-year-old student reported that their son had been assaulted by his middle school teammates during wrestling practice on December 14 at Minerva High School.
Village Prosecutor Caitlyn Schneider says the probe revealed that one of the wrestling coaches allegedly ordered 16 members of the team, all at once, to take down the 12-year-old boy and another coach stood by and let it happen.
“Outside of a normal practice for wrestling, it was not in the course of the practice; it was not a normal disciplinary tactic,” said Schneider. The prosecutor says as a result of the actions ordered by and allowed by the coaches, the young wrestler required medical attention. Schneider told FOX 8, “I was a high school and college athlete; I’m thoroughly aware kids get hurt in practices and matches and meets and whatever it is they’re doing. It’s just that, based on the interviews from everyone, that was not the case here.”
One of the coaches, Nathan Smith, 24, a teacher at Minerva Elementary School, has been charged with child endangering; while coach Jason Lutz, 43, a teacher at Minerva Middle School, has been charged with complicity to child endangering.
Minerva Schools Superintendent Gary Chaddock issued a statement that reads, in part, “Our district recently was made aware of allegations regarding two coaches and responded immediately. The district followed all necessary protocols and assigned the coaches to home, while an investigation by both the district and law enforcement took place. We take this situation very seriously, and our district fully cooperated with the investigations.
The village prosecutor says she is aware that as a sport wrestling is very physical and the training is quite rigorous, but she contends the conduct of the coaches rose to the level of a crime. “I think that probably there are circumstances where this might be appropriate in a practice, especially in wrestling; I have heard of that being a drill, just not in this case,” said Schneider.
Nathan Smith and Jason Lutz are scheduled to be arraigned in Alliance Municipal Court on Wednesday at 1 p.m.