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Coach hits wrestler on mat, says he was protecting son — the other wrestler — from getting choked. Now coach banned for life.
Image source: YouTube screenshot

Coach hits wrestler on mat, says he was protecting son — the other wrestler — from getting choked. Now coach banned for life.

Authorities handed down a lifetime ban to an Idaho high school wrestling coach for hitting an opposing wrestler during a match last weekend, the Idaho Statesman reported.

But the circumstances are a bit unusual given that the coach's son was the other wrestler in the match, and the coach — Russell Brunson— said he was trying to protect his son from getting choked.

What are the details?

The Statesman said video of the incident shows Brunson — an assistant coach for Rocky Mountain High School — getting on the mat and hitting a freshman from Nyssa, Oregon, at least three times during the Jan. 20 Skyview Duals match in Nampa, Idaho.

Officials had to stop the match to get Brunson off the mat, the paper said.

Niki Scheppers, spokesperson for Idaho's West Ada School District, told the Statesman that Brunson wasn't ejected from the tournament.

'What would you if your kid was getting choked out?'

Brunson penned a Jan. 22 letter to the District Three Board of Control, the local arm of the Idaho High School Activities Association, the Statesman said.

Brunson said he thought his son was put into an illegal choke hold and feared he was about to pass out, the paper noted.

“As a coach, the normal reaction would be to yell and point it out to the ref, but my reaction as a dad took it one step too far,” Brunson wrote, according to the Statesman. “What would you do if your kid was getting choked out, just 2 feet in front of your face? If I had more time, I probably could have made a better decision. But it all happened, I panicked, and it was over in less than 3 seconds.”

Scheppers told the paper that Brunson resigned Jan. 21 from his volunteer coaching position, and the board of control on Jan. 23 banned him from coaching any Idaho high school sport or activity for life. The board also barred Brunson from attending any state high school sporting event for the rest of this school year and the 2024-25 year, the Statesman reported.

"The board felt the actions of coach Brunson were egregious and unacceptable,” board president Craig Woods wrote in a letter Jan. 23 to Rocky Mountain, the paper said. “There is no place for this type of behavior in high school athletics, and it will not be tolerated.”

Scheppers added to the Statesman that Brunson plans to appeal the ban on attending events. The paper said Brunson's son will finish his senior season next month.

The Statesman said Brunson declined an interview request Jan. 24 but provided the paper with a statement.

"There is no excuse for my actions on January 20th,” he wrote in a text message, according to the Statesman. “I should not have stepped onto the mat and tried to break up the wrestling match. I saw my child in a potentially dangerous position and reacted rashly. I have reached out to the [Nyssa wrestler’s] family directly and sincerely apologized for my inappropriate reaction.”

Criminal charges?

The paper added that the Nyssa School District in Oregon has not ruled out seeking criminal charges.

“We are collaborating with the family, athletic associations, school district officials and, if necessary, law enforcement to investigate this incident,” Nyssa Athletic Director Joshua De Anda wrote in an email to the Statesman. “Both Nyssa High School and Nyssa School District are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students.”

The West Ada School District also is investigating, Scheppers added to the paper. Nampa police opened an investigation as well, Big Country News reported.

Brunson apologized in his letter to the board and wrote that his actions weren't premeditated, the Statesman said.

“My initial reaction (as you’ll see from the video) was correct,” Brunson wrote, according to the paper. “I yelled that he was getting choked and tried to show the ref. But in the last 2 seconds, I was wrong. I don’t know what happened. I was scared, and my instinct was to push the other kid off of him so the choking would stop and he could breathe. If I could go back and replay those 2 seconds of my life, I would. But unfortunately, it’s too late.”

Anything else?

The Statesman at the bottom of its story embedded Brunson's letter to the board, and in that letter was a link to a video of the incident Brunson said is from his phone "so you can see the angle and my point of view during the incident."

The web address in the letter is www.RussellBrunson.com/thevideo. The main part of the internet address — minus the "thevideo" extension — goes to Brunson's marketing and sales website. Big Country News characterized Brunson as "a social media influencer and millionaire."

However, the complete address — www.RussellBrunson.com/thevideo — goes to a Facebook post by marketer Marley Jaxx that advocates for Brunson and includes the secondary-angle video Brunson mentions in his letter to the board.

While the YouTube video of the incident recorded from a high angle appears to show Brunson throwing his right hand three times at the opposing wrestler, the below clip from the floor angle shows Brunson slapping the wrestler once with an open right hand and then throwing his right hand a second time.

Image source: Facebook video screenshot via Marley Jaxx

However, the clip ends right in the middle of the second thrown hand — whether or not it comes in contact with the wrestler isn't clear.

Image source: Facebook video screenshot via Marley Jaxx

A third thrown hand apparently visible in the YouTube video isn't included in the floor-angle clip.

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Dave Urbanski

Dave Urbanski

Sr. Editor, News

Dave Urbanski is a senior editor for Blaze News.
@DaveVUrbanski →