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Wrestling coach charged in connection to hazing incident in Franklin, police say

Posted: 11:14 AM, Apr 15, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-16 01:49:33-04

FRANKLIN, Ohio — Child endangerment and hazing charges were filed Monday against 58-year-old wrestling coach Bart Freidenberg, whom police said failed to stop a 2018 hazing incident that left a 14-year-old wrestler injured and begging his parents to pick him up from practice.

“That right there is the first red flag for any parent,” Franklin police Chief Russ Whitman said. “When a kid is in a sport that they love but wants to leave practice, I’d say that’s an issue.”

Whitman declined to describe the type or extent of the boy’s injuries. He said he believes there may be other victims — and, if there are, releasing more detailed information about the incident could make it more difficult for police to distinguish a real victim from a person who simply heard about it on the news.

“Let them come and tell their own story, and if they match, then we know it’s genuine and not made up,” he said.

Neither the victim nor Freidenberg are Franklin natives. The Columbus-based Ohio All-Stars Wrestling Team had rented district facilities, including Franklin High School and the pool at Franklin Community Park, to practice ahead of a wrestling tour on the west coast.

No Franklin students or staff members were involved, according to Whitman. Because the team had members from Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, his department plans to cooperate with others to search for evidence of any other hazing incidents.

“I hope there aren’t any other victims,” he said. “I hope this is just an isolated incident, but if it’s not, then we want to get to the bottom of it and put a stop to it. We have a duty to protect all students, whether they’re from Franklin or not.”

Freidenberg and his attorney declined to comment when contacted by reporters.

Anyone with information regarding suspected cases of hazing involving the organization is asked to contact Det. David Hatfield at 937-746-2882, or leave a tip by calling 937-743-1TIP (1847).