OPRF assistant coach Powell reprimanded after off-campus incident

An assistant wrestling coach at Oak Park-River Forest High School -- along with the principal of the suburban Chicago school -- has been reprimanded after an off-campus sexual incident involving students allegedly took place last summer at the coach's home when he was not home, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday .

A school investigation completed last December -- but released only recently -- determined the coach, Mike Powell, a former Indiana University wrestler and National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee, engaged in "misconduct by allowing a current district student to spend an evening at [Powell's] residence while [he] was out of town and informing the student that he could have other students over to [the] residence that same evening."

Mike Powell coaching at The Clash (Photo/The Guillotine)
OPRF school officials said the incident took place Aug. 27, 2016, at Powell's home when he was not there. School administrators learned of the incident four days later which they described as a "sexual misconduct" incident that allegedly occurred at a party consisting of students. In November 2016, Powell released a statement confirming his temporary coaching suspension from Oak Park River Forest High School, stating that an incident "may have happened while students were in my home without my knowledge or permission when I was not there."

At the time Powell said the suspension was "not disciplinary in nature." By December, Powell had returned to his assistant coaching position, according to school officials.

The OPRF superintendent, Joylynn Pruitt-Adams, described Powell's conduct as "unprofessional" and constituted a display of "poor professional judgment."

Pruitt-Adams has asked Powell to refrain from having district students on his property and not retaliate against any employee or student for participating in the district's investigation. The superintendent also asked Powell to conduct himself in a professional manner, use professional judgment as a district employee, comply with all school policies, practices, guidelines and school rules related to proper interactions and relationships with district students.

While the OPRF school district's investigation into last summer's incident is complete, Oak Park police Commander LaDon Reynolds told the Chicago Tribune that their investigation is "still ongoing."

Just last week, the OPRF school board approved new school policies for the reporting of sexual misconduct, harassment and bullying.

Mike Powell has deep roots with Oak Park-River Forest High School. In 1994, Powell won an Illinois state wrestling title for the school located in suburbs immediately to the west of the Chicago Loop. Powell then headed south to Indiana University, where he earned NCAA All-American honors in 1996, and compiled an overall record of 68-21 for the Hoosiers.

After graduation, Powell returned to his high school alma mater, serving as an assistant coach at OPRF from 1999-2004 before taking over as head coach for the 2005 season. In a decade at the helm, Powell led the Huskies to two dual team state championships, a dual team runner-up finish, a total of six appearances in the dual team state finals tournament, and top team scores at the individual state wrestling tournament four times. Powell coached 10 individual state champions and 31 all-state wrestlers. His overall dual meet record was 213-44.

In 2014, Powell resigned from the head coaching position at OPRF but has remained with the program as an assistant coach. He is listed on the coaching roster at the official OPRF wrestling website as "guru."

In June 2015, Powell received the Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. for continuing his involvement in wrestling despite a 2009 diagnosis of polymyositis, a chronic inflammation of the muscles is a progressive autoimmune disease. In its bio for Powell, the Hall of Fame wrote, "Doctors don't know what causes it or how to cure it, but Powell persevered in spite of the greatest physical challenge of his life."


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