A former Ohio State University wrestler told CNN that retired head wrestling coach Russ Hellickson asked him to support Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one day after the ex-athlete publicly accused Jordan of knowing about sexual abuse at the university while he served as the team's assistant coach.
Dunyasha Yetts, who wrestled for Ohio State in the early 1990s, first went public with the allegations of abuse at the hands of team doctor Richard Strauss in early July. Yetts says Hellickson called him the next day and it was the first time he had spoken to his former coach since 1994.
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More than 100 former students have alleged sexual misconduct by the doctor, who died in 2005.
Yetts said that during their conversation, Hellickson told him that he loved him to death and Hellickson went on to explain that his own wife and kids and Jim Jordan were mad at him.
Yetts said his former coach then said to him, "I want you to know personally that I'm sorry that I'm doing this. I need to come out and make a strong statement to defend Jimmy."
'I will never talk to you again'
"I told him, 'I will never talk to you again if you call me a liar,'" Yetts said in a phone call to CNN detailing his conversation with Hellickson.
Yetts provided text messages to CNN of conversations he said were with Hellickson. CNN has confirmed that these texts did come from Hellickson.
The following are excerpts from the texts obtained by CNN:
In one of the texts CNN saw, Hellickson texted Yetts, whose wife has cancer, on July 4 after their phone conversation, writing, "Your (sic) a special part of my coaching life. I'm sorry you got caught up in this media train. I'm praying for you guys and you (sic) cancer fight. Keep on believing, baby!"
In another July 4 text from Hellickson to Yetts, Hellickson writes, "If you think the story got told wrong about Jim, you could probably write a statement for release that tells your story and corrects what you feel bad about. I can put you in contact with someone who would release it. It might make you feel better?"
Yetts said he didn't feel bad at all about coming forward about the allegation.
Another text to Yetts from Hellickson the next day, urging him not to talk to the media, reads, "Do not talk to any media. People will call you to convince you I said to talk. No no no."
In what Yetts says is a final text from Hellickson, on July 5, Hellickson says: "Keep on believing"
That was a phrase often used by the wrestling team, according to Yetts.
Another accuser, Mike DiSabato, said he also spoke with Hellickson shortly after he went public with allegations of abuse. DiSabato says Hellickson told him he was upset at the way the media was misrepresenting his words, insinuating he knew Strauss was sexually abusing athletes and now felt pressure to put out another statement supporting Jordan.
'Too hands on'
"Russ told me that he was conflicted because Jim was being treated unfairly and it was necessary to put out a statement," said DiSabato. "He wanted me to understand because he knew I didn't agree with him. I told him it wasn't a good idea. It was not my advice for him to put out a statement to support Jim," he added.
Hellickson did put out a public statement of support for Jordan on July 9.
DiSabato had put together a video he gave to OSU and subsequently provided to CNN on which Hellickson talks about Strauss as being "too hands on." He did not make any reference to Rep. Jordan in the video.
In a subsequent text provided to CNN by DiSabato, the former coach wrote on July 10: "I am a victim because no athletes who I cherish told me they were abused by Doc and I was not sharp enough to figure it out myself."
"Any thing I have done or said in the recent past, was because I believe it was the right thing to do."
CNN contacted Jordan's office for a response to the latest reporting. In response, Jordan's spokesperson Ian Fury issued this statement:
"Seven coaches have said exactly what the Congressman said. Many wrestlers have echoed those comments and support for the Congressman. why are they all saying the same thing? Because it's the truth."
When reached by CNN, Hellickson declined to comment.