WASHINGTON — The former head wrestling coach at Ohio State University attempted to get two former wrestlers to recant their accusations that Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sexual abuse as an assistant coach at the school.
Jordan has been accused of knowing that team physician Dr. Richard Strauss sexually abused athletes while he was an assistant wrestling coach from 1986 to 1994. The Ohio Republican has denied that any accusations were made to him at the time.
Two of Jordan’s accusers told NBC News that retired coach Russ Hellickson texted them and said he was under pressure to get statements supporting Jordan. One shared text messages from the former coach.
“I’m sorry you got caught up in the media train,” Hellickson texted Dunyasha Yetts in a message that he shared with NBC. “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.”
Yetts previously told NBC about how he reported to Jordan and Hellickson that Strauss tried to pull his shorts down.
Yetts also said Hellickson called him on July 4, saying he was under pressure to get “a bold statement to defend Jimmy.”
“He said, ‘I will defend Jimmy until I have to put my hand on a Bible and be asked to tell the truth, then Jimmy will be on his own,” Yetts said Hellickson told him. “I told him, ‘I’m going to contradict you, Coach, because I’m telling the truth.”
Fellow accuser Mike DiSabato also shared texts messages with Hellickson.
“He said Jimmy was telling him he had to make a statement supporting him and he called to tell me why he was going to make it,” DiSabato said.
Yetts, DiSabato and six other wrestlers told NBC they all respect Hellickson but believe he is torn between defending his former athletes and Jordan.
Last week, Jordan announced he would run for House speaker. Fellow Republicans have defended him in the wake of the accusations.