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EDITORIAL: Wrestling With the Demons

Editor’s Note: In the March 30 Commentary piece (“Wrestling With the Demons") June Coan shared her experience while on the East Providence High School wrestling team. We aim to convey the facts with accuracy and have removed portions related to current events that could not be corroborated. 

As the news broke on Channel 10 that the East Providence High School wrestling team had been implicated in an incident involving drugs, alcohol and an obscene sexual prank, I felt angry, angry that it took this long for the veil to be lifted. For the truth to be uncovered. And now, I have my voice and I will use it.

This was not the only incident. It may, however, have been the only incident that has ever gone public. Until now. I was on the wrestling from 2001 to 2003, my junior and senior years. I was a victim of a similar act, along with other forms of abuse while on the team. And I wasn’t alone. But nobody did anything.

The 2001-2002 season was my first year of wrestling. It also happened to be the worst year of my life. During that year, I was hazed — a teammate had pinned me, dry humped me, all while saying “This is what I am doing with my girlfriend tonight.” The entire team laughed. This was during practice, and the head coach was standing over us when this happened.  I never reported it because it was embarrassing and I didn’t know what to make of it. But I’ll never forget it.

That same kid harassed me every day and forced me to be his partner as much as he could since we were in the same weight class. I was pummeled on the mat often by different teammates, all while this was supposed to be some kind of sick joke.

Another incident my first year was when two of my teammates came up to me in the cafeteria, taunted me and hold “I hope you get in a car crash and F**ing die”. I reported the incident to the head coach, who told me “it was my fault and I deserved it”. I reported the incident to my former guidance counselor, as the guidance counselor I had at the time was friends with the coach. I knew it wasn’t going to go anywhere if I didn’t.

After reporting it to my former guidance counselor, the only thing that happened to the two boys was that their injury time was extended. Meaning they couldn’t practice or participate in any matches for a week. Personally, I felt they should’ve been thrown off the team completely.

I decided to continue to wrestle in college [..] I learned more and had a much positive experience in wrestling in college than I did in high school. My college coach was also a sports psychologist, I told him a lot of what happened in high school, so he understood my struggles. I had to stop wrestling in college due to the past abuse from high school. I couldn’t wrestle because I suffered severe anxiety and panic attacks. Certain things set me off like smells, the color of the mat, and some of my college teammates looked like my high school teammates that hurt me. While not officially diagnosed, I most likely suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to my high school wrestling experience.