OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An athlete at an Oklahoma City high school was charged this week with a sex crime after police say an act the boy described as a wrestling maneuver was obscene groping.
The incident, which occurred last month in a locker room and that wrestling leaders denounced as inappropriate and not part of the sport's culture, follows a similar incident in nearby Norman. In that case, four high school wrestlers were charged earlier this week with sexually assaulting two other wrestlers last month on a bus returning from a tournament.
"We've had two incidents within a week of each other at two different schools," Moore police Sgt. Jeremy Lewis said.
The 17-year-old Southmoore High School student in the latest incident was charged Thursday with rape by instrumentation by a youthful offender. He is accused of using his finger to push a portion of a 12-year-old boy's uniform into his buttocks. The incident occurred Jan. 19 as the wrestling team was preparing to travel to Edmond for a meet.
Police say the boy charged told investigators someone had used the same wrestling maneuver on him before, but that he had never done the move in a match. Lewis said the boy posted a $15,000 bond that was set in the case Friday.
The four students from Norman North High School — two 17-year-olds, an 18-year-old and a 16-year-old — were charged with rape by instrumentation after police said they engaged in "multiple acts of sexual assault" Jan. 9 that involved force on a 16-year-old teammate and another who is 12. The students were on the team bus, which was returning from a meet in Pauls Valley.
The Norman North students have pleaded not guilty.
In both cases, the athletes accused of crimes were suspended from school.
The executive director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, said Friday that the sport teaches physical discipline and builds character for athletes from nearly any background.
"Wrestling is a sport for any boy of any size and any weight," Lee Roy Smith said. "You learn self-confidence and self-defense skills.
"You have never heard much about wrestlers being bullies or hazing that much because of how much the sport has taught them to be disciplined with their physicality," he said. "It builds a self-reliance, rock-solid character values. These kinds of acts are really out of character — they will not be tolerated at any level."
Wrestling has long been a part of the Oklahoma high school and college landscape, with the state producing nationally touted programs.
Lewis said the similar allegations and closeness in time of the two incidents was odd, adding that "this is the first we've heard of anything like that."
Mike Moyer, executive director of the National Wrestling Coaches Association, said the incidents sounded more like bullying or hazing than a wrestling issue.
"Clearly, with these allegations, we have more work to do today in regard to education and making sure nothing like this happens again," Moyer said.
Kissel reported from Little Rock, Arkansas.