Jim Jordan (Photo/WP Company LLC )
Jim Jordan, Republican Congressman from Ohio and Hall of Fame wrestler for University of Wisconsin, denied reports Tuesday that he "turned a blind eye" to alleged sexual abuse perpetrated against students by an Ohio State wrestling team doctor when the lawmaker was on the coaching staff at the university more than two decades ago, according to multiple media reports.
"Congressman Jordan never saw any abuse, never heard about any abuse, and never had any abuse reported to him during his time as a coach at Ohio State," Ian Fury, a spokesperson for Jordan, told Fox News.
"He has not been contacted by investigators about the matter but will assist them in any way they ask, because if what is alleged is true, the victims deserve a full investigation and justice."
Jordan, an NCAA wrestling champ for Wisconsin in the early 1980s, was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, serving under head coach Russ Hellickson, while earning a master's degree in education at Ohio State and later a law degree from Capital University in Columbus before launching his political career in 1994.
As InterMat reported in April, Ohio State had launched an investigation regarding allegations that Dr. Richard Strauss, the Buckeye wrestling team doctor from the mid-1970s into the late 1990s, may have engaged in inappropriate or illegal behavior. The school had reached out to former student-athletes and others who may have suffered or witnessed abuse at the hands of Strauss. The Ohio state attorney general's office has also launched an investigation.
Strauss died in 2005, reportedly of a suicide.
Three former wrestlers told NBC News that it was common knowledge that Strauss showered regularly with the students and inappropriately touched them during appointments. They said it would have been impossible for Jordan to be unaware; one wrestler said he told Jordan directly about the abuse.
Former Ohio State wrestler Mike DiSabato made allegations against Strauss which prompted the school to open its investigation.
"Doc Strauss was a serial groper," DiSabato told USA Today. "Everyone knew, including Jim."
DiSabato told NBC he reached out to Jordan this year, before going to the university, to tell the west Ohio congressman that he planned to go public with his allegations, saying he was concerned Ohio State might "sweep the allegations under the rug" and wanted Jordan to confirm his story. Jordan told him to "please leave me out of it," DiSabato said. "He asked me not to get him involved."
"I considered Jim Jordan a friend," DiSabato said. "But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn't know what was going on."
DiSabato, whose allegations against Strauss prompted Ohio State to open its investigation, called Jordan a "liar."
Another former Buckeye wrestler described his encounters with Dr. Strauss with NBC News.
"I remember I had a thumb injury and went into Strauss' office and he started pulling down my wrestling shorts," ex-wrestler Dunyasha Yetts told NBC. "I'm like, what the f--- are you doing? And I went out and told Russ and Jim what happened. I was not having it. They went in and talked to Strauss."
Russ is Russ Hellickson, the head coach at the time. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
However, according to NBC, Hellickson said in a recent video -- made by DiSabato -- that he had told Strauss that he was being too "hands on" with students.
"I said, 'You make the guys nervous when you shower with them,'" Hellickson said in the video. "His response was, 'Coach, you shower with your guys all the time.' And I said, 'Not for an hour, Doc.'"
Yetts, who wrestled for Ohio State in 1993 and 1994, told NBC he and his teammates talked to Jordan numerous times about Strauss.
"For God's sake, Strauss's locker was right next to Jordan's and Jordan even said he'd kill him if he tried anything with him," Yetts said.
As NBC pointed out, Yetts admitted he served 18 months in prison for bilking investors out of nearly $2 million. "I am not a perfect person, but ask any of the wrestlers and they will tell you everybody knew about Doc," said Yetts.
As for Jordan, Yetts said, "He's a great guy. We would have all these great talks with him and he talked about how one day he'd be the president of the United States."
"So it's sad for me to hear that he's denying knowing about Strauss," he said. "I don't know why he would, unless it's a cover-up. Either you're in on it, or you're a liar."
DiSabato has had his own share of troubles. A small business owner who sold athletic merchandise, among DiSabato's clients was Ohio State, from graduation for years until the university cut off his contract. He sued the school, and was also part of a class action lawsuit against the university, according to Ohio State's student newspaper, The Lantern.
Since Ohio State opened its investigation in early April, the investigation has expanded beyond the Buckeye wrestling program to include male student-athletes from 14 sports programs, as well as some individuals who met Strauss while they were in high school. A Los Angeles-based law firm, Perkins Coie, is conducting an independent probe of the matter on behalf of the university's attorneys.
Part of the university's investigation includes determining if anyone at Ohio State knew about the allegations and should have reported them.
As of last Friday, Jordan had not been questioned by the university-hired lawyers, his spokesman, told NBC.
Jordan the wrestler
Before entering politics, Jim Jordan crafted a highly successful wrestling career in high school and college. Born in Troy, Ohio in February 1964, James Daniel Jordan attended Graham High School in nearby St. Paris, Ohio, where he was a four-time state champ with a career record of 150-1. After graduating from St. Paris Graham in 1982, Jordan went on to wrestle at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1982-1986. He was twice a Big Ten champ (in 1985 and 1986), and a three-time NCAA All-American, placing sixth in the 134-pound weight class as a sophomore, then won back-to-back NCAA titles. At the 1985 NCAAs, Jordan defeated Oklahoma State's John Smith, 7-4, in the finals… while at the 1986 Nationals, the Badger beat Iowa's Greg Randall, 6-2, for his second title.
Jordan's record at UW was 156-28-1.
Life after wrestling
After his time as an assistant coach at Ohio State, Jordan entered politics, first serving in Ohio State Assembly, then being sworn into the House of Representatives in 2007, serving counties in far-western Ohio roughly between Dayton and Toledo. He is a driving force in the House's Freedom Caucus, a conservative Republican group comprised of approximately three dozen members. In April, when current Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin announced he would not be running for re-election, Jordan was mentioned as a possible successor.
Jim Jordan was welcomed into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. in 2014 as an Outstanding American, a category which honors individuals from the sport of wrestling whose accomplishments are notable beyond wrestling. In addition, he received the Lifetime Service to Wrestling award from the Ohio Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2010.
Jim Jordan's Congressional office is planning to contact U.S. Capitol Police regarding emails received over the past few weeks, his office told CNN late Wednesday.
"The source added that the messages were vaguely threatening in nature in part because of the amount of emails sent, and that Jordan did not respond to the emails because he felt the man was 'bullying him,'" according to CNN, which added the most recent email arrived at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Jordan, at a Fourth of July parade in Fremont, Ohio, told CNN he "never knew of any abuse from Dr. Strauss, plain and simple."
"We knew of no abuse, never heard of abuse. If we had, we would have reported it," Jordan said. "If, in fact, there's problems, we want justice for the people who were victims, obviously, and as I said, we are happy to talk with the folks who are doing the investigation. But the things they said about me just were flat-out not true."
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, called the accusations against Jordan "serious" and said they should be investigated.
"These are serious allegations and issues," Doug Andres told CNN in a statement. "The university has rightfully initiated a full investigation into the matter. The speaker will await the findings of that inquiry."