A statewide youth wrestling all-star team was denied use of Franklin High School for a training camp this summer as a result of an investigation of its coach for an alleged hazing incident in June 2018.
Bart Freidenberg, a prominent Ohio AAU wrestling coach, was charged by Franklin police on Friday with child endangerment and hazing, both misdemeanor offenses, in connection with the 2018 training camp held at Franklin High School.
The team was training prior to leaving for a six- to eight-week trip to the West Coast, police said. The alleged incidents occurred at Franklin Community Pool and at the high school, police said.
Police said the team rented out the Franklin school facilities and that no Franklin City Schools students or personnel had any involvement with these incidents. Police Chief Russ Whitman said the All Star Wrestling Team had competitors from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana.
During the practices in Franklin, one of the juvenile wrestlers from Cincinnati called his parents to come pick him up early. Once the family picked him up, it was found that the juvenile was a victim of a hazing incident, and they contacted police.
Franklin police allege that Freidenberg, 58, of Pickerington, was aware of the hazing incidents and failed to stop them. An arrest warrant was issued Monday for Freidenberg, but no court date has been set, according to Franklin Municipal Court records.
Superintendent Michael Sander said the organization requested to use the high school again since the alleged incident but was denied because of the pending investigation.
Sander said the Franklin district has not had any incidents among its student-athletes and teams “because people know its not tolerated and they don’t do it.”
“When parents send their kids to athletic or academic camps to improve themselves, they should feel their child is safe and that they’re not exposed to that type of behavior,” he said. “Coaches are supposed to be role models.”
A message seeking comment was left with the father of the wrestler.
Freidenberg declined to comment when contacted by this news organization on the advice of his attorney, Mark Minister of Mount Gilead.
Mark Hecquet, volunteer governor of the Ohio Amateur Athletic Union and president/CEO of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, was unaware of the charges brought against the team’s coach. Freidenberg is the Ohio AAU sports director for wrestling.
Hecquet said he would be contacting the legal team at the AAU National Office in Orlando about the matter and declined further comment.
Freidenberg has been the Ohio AAU Wrestling Chairman since 1986 and has coached at several high schools and middle schools in central Ohio and organized dozens of tournaments. He also served as head wrestling manager at Ohio State University from 1979 to 1982. In 2006, Freidenberg was inducted into the AAU Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Freidenberg is known among the Ohio wrestling community for his annual youth wrestling tournament, the touring all-star wrestling team he runs and previous coaching experience within local school districts, according to his AAU biography.
Freidenberg founded the Ohio All-Star Wrestling Team, according to his AAU biography. The program, operating for more than three decades, takes sixth- through ninth-grade wrestlers on summer wrestling tours across the country.
He also founded and operates the Ohio Tournament of Champions, an annual competition for youth wrestlers in its 27th year. The tournament, held in Columbus, draws 2,500 wrestlers. It will be held this year on April 27 at the Ohio Expo Center, according tournament’s website.
Tim Streid, OHSAA communications director, confirmed that Freidenberg was a worker at the state wrestling tournament but was not employed by the association.
“We’ve received information from Franklin police,” Streid said. “We’ll start our own investigation then we will decide what action to take. We take these matters very seriously.”
Whitman said investigators are working with the coach’s attorney on his formal arrest before his initial appearance in Franklin Municipal Court on April 23.
Whitman said the charges are coming out now because it takes time for these types of investigations. He also said investigators are asking for any other victims to come forward.
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