A seventh former Ohio State University wrestler said Saturday that he believes Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) knew about inappropriate behavior that allegedly took place in the school’s athletic department three decades ago, as two more former team members came to Jordan’s defense.
David Range, who wrestled for Ohio State in the late 1980s, said Jordan had to have known about alleged sexual misconduct by Richard Strauss, an athletic doctor whose behavior is under investigation by the school, because it happened regularly to team members and people talked about it. Jordan has denied he knew, saw or heard about any inappropriate behavior while he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995.
“Jordan definitely knew that these things were happening — yes, most definitely,” Range told The Washington Post. “It was there. He knew about it because it was an everyday occurrence.”
Range said he never discussed the issue directly with Jordan one on one and did not know whether anyone made a formal report, but he said Jordan was present during group conversations in the locker room about Strauss’s behavior.
“We talked about it all the time in the locker room” while Jordan was there, he said. “Everybody joked about it and talked about it all the time.”
Range said Strauss, who has been accused of abusing athletes in more than a dozen sports during his time as an athletic doctor, touched wrestlers inappropriately during examinations and ogled them in the locker room showers.
“He just fondled you a little too long while he gave you a hernia check,” said Range, a Cleveland resident who said he is involved in mixed martial arts. “And then he stayed in the showers, like, an hour until everyone was done.”
Jordan has been under scrutiny since July 3, when NBC News quoted three former wrestlers saying he knew or must have known about inappropriate behavior in the athletic department. Three others have said the same in news accounts since then.
The reports come at a delicate time for Jordan, who has been under pressure from conservative political organizations to mount a bid to replace Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who will not run for reelection.
Several members of the Ohio State wrestling program who attended the school while Jordan was a coach there have defended the congressman, saying they believe his denials that he didn’t know about the alleged abuse.
Two former wrestlers told The Post on Saturday that they believe Jordan, who charged one accuser on Friday with having a “vendetta” against Ohio State and his family. Asked for comment for this story, a spokesman for Jordan referred The Post to his interview with Fox News on Friday night.
“Conversations in a locker room are a lot different than people coming up and talking about abuse,” Jordan told Fox. Asked later whether he heard wrestlers talking about misconduct that fell short of the common definition of sexual abuse at the time but that could be considered abuse today, Jordan issued a flat denial, saying he “did not, did not” hear anything.
Michael Alf, who joined the team in the late 1980s, said the environment in the Ohio State locker room was “definitely disturbing,” with non-team members using the showers to ogle the wrestlers.
“There was definitely inappropriate things that in my opinion were pretty disgusting going on all around us. You just took your shower and got out,” he said.
Alf said that while wrestlers joked about issues like Strauss’s behavior, he doesn’t remember the conversations happening in front of Jordan.
“He’s the most honest person I’ve ever met,” he said of Jordan. “The thing is, if he saw something like that, he wouldn’t have tolerated it. . . . If Jimmy says he didn’t know, I believe him.”
Another former wrestler, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about what happened, said that Jordan was “all business” as a coach and that team members were careful what they said around him.
“It’s way more likely that [he] didn’t know than did know,” the former wrestler said. “We were so guarded around these guys. . . . I think the only reason he’s being dragged into it is because of his political stature, and I think that’s terrible.”