Wrestling coach gets lifetime ban in Idaho after punching Nyssa wrestler

NAMPA- An assistant coach who struck a Nyssa High School wrestler during a match Saturday, Jan. 20, in Nampa received a lifetime ban from coaching in Idaho and is not allowed as a spectator at any state sporting events this year or next.

The Third District Board of Control, the governing body of Idaho high school sports, met Tuesday, Jan. 23, to consider the actions of Russell Brunson, an assistant wrestling coach at Rocky Mountain High School.

Video showed that Brunson jumped on the mat Saturday, Jan. 20, and hit Nash Froerer, a Nyssa freshman, a couple of times during a match with Brunson’s son, Bowen, a Rocky Mountain senior.

The board characterized Brunson’s actions as “egregious and unacceptable.” and voted unanimously for the ban.

“There is no place for this type of behavior in high school athletics and it will not be tolerated,” wrote Craig Woods, president of the Third District Board of Control in a Tuesday, Jan. 23, board document shared with the Enterprise. 

“I know what I did was not ok. It was not something that was premeditated.”

–Russell Brunson, former wrestling coach

Bobby DeLeon, Nyssa’s head wrestling coach, said during the Saturday match, Froerer was trying to turn his opponent, Brunson’s son, on his back for a pin., Brunson, standing close to the action on the mat, yelled at the referee and accused Froerer of applying a chokehold.

According to DeLeon, the referee got down lower and determined no such chokehold was applied. When Froerer pushed the move harder, his arm crossed over his opponent’s neck. At that point, Brunson moved to the wrestlers on the mat and appeared to strike Froerer at least a couple of times.

In the video, the referee pushes Brunson away, and DeLeon runs over to push him away from the wrestlers. At that point, Brunson can be seen throwing up his hands and hurrying away from the mat.

DeLeon said when he ran over, his goal was to “protect our kids.”

“At that point,” DeLeon said, “our wrestler was no longer in danger.”

DeLeon said given that Brunson was leaving, he did not want to make the situation “worse.” In the video, Froerer, can be seen rubbing his head, and it appears Brunson hit him in the head. According to DeLeon, he was hit in the ribs and later he was rubbing them, so, DeLeon said, it was “obvious” he knew he had been hit after the adrenaline wore off.

After the incident, DeLeon said Bowen Brunson apologized. DeLeon said at that moment he didn’t know the attacker was the wrestler’s father and told him, “You don’t have to apologize for that grown man’s behavior.” 

Brunson, a volunteer assistant coach for four years at Rocky Mountain High School, resigned Monday, according to a statement from West Ada School District. He is no longer affiliated with the district that oversees Rocky Mountain High School in any capacity, the district reported.

According to DeLeon, Brunson made his way to the stands after the incident. DeLeon said Brunson unknowingly interacted with Froerer’s parents at one point as he milled about the audience after the incident.

DeLeon said he got “pretty upset” asking who the tournament director was and who was responsible for ensuring Brunson left the building.  According to DeLeon, who the tournament director was at the event, was not clear after the incident.

DeLeon said he wanted to prevent the situation from becoming more unsafe for kids and others in attendance. 

“You hit somebody’s child, not knowing how those individuals might react,” DeLeon said.

Tye Jones, executive director of the Idaho High School Activities Association, said ejections from sporting events require the person to leave the building or premises immediately and then a suspension from the next event. 

After the ejection, DeLeon said, everyone was under the assumption Brunson had been ejected from event, but “that was not the case.”

Kathleen Tuck, a spokesperson with the Nampa School District, which oversees Skyview High School, the tournament host, said Wednesday, Jan. 24, that Brunson left the building once tournament staff asked him to. She did not know how long that was after the incident.

Tuck said Dusty Vaugn, Skyview High School’s head wrestling coach, was the tournament director.

About an hour after the incident, DeLeon said a Skyview High School official told him they tracked down Brunson after reviewing video footage of the event and told Brunson he needed to leave.

It appears law enforcement was not contacted immediately after the incident and a police report was not filed with the Nampa Police Department until Monday, Jan. 22, according to department officials. The Nampa Police Department declined to reveal who filed the report. The Enterprise requested a copy of the record.

DeLeon said he’d asked himself in the days after the event whose responsibility it was to contact law enforcement.

“Was it my responsibility as a coach?” he said. “I’m familiar with athletic events. Typically, there’s a designated individual, and that’s a tournament director.”

In DeLeon’s view, Brunson hit a kid. It was an issue for law enforcement to address. 

He and the other coaches returned to wrestling. After the incident, the tournament staff replaced the referee. The previous referee reported the incident to the event organizers.

DeLeon said the officiating staff did the best job that they could do in reporting the incident. He said that goes for the tournament staff as well. The incident was so unusual, and he said many were shocked that it had happened, and it likely made it hard for them to react immediately, given that matches were co-occurring.

He said that Rocky Mountain High School coaches seemed as shocked as he was.

Brunson, who, according to the website, wrestled in college while attending Boise State University, didn’t respond to requests for comment. Brunson, who runs an online marketing company in Eagle called Click Funnels, lists that he was a state champion and an All-American wrestler in high school.

Niki Scheppers, chief of staff and communications for the  West Ada School District, said in a statement that that Brunson became fearful when he saw Froerer’s arm go over the Rocky Mountain wrestler’s face. He thought it was an “illegal choke.”

“Concerned for his son’s well-being, he reacted instinctively by shouting to alert the referee and attempting to stop the situation,” she wrote. “However, in the final moments, fear and adrenaline took over, leading Coach Brunson to make a decision to try and push the other wrestler off the neck of his son, which he acknowledges was wrong.”

Scheppers shared Brunson’s notice of a lifetime ban from coaching in Idaho and an emailed statement from Brunson.

“I know what I did was not ok. It was not something that was premeditated, its something that just happened. What would you do if your son was getting illegally choked out in front of your eyes?” Brunson said in the statement.  

“If I could go back and replay those 2 seconds of my life, I would, but unfortunately, it’s too late.”

DeLeon said Brunson’s body language, particularly when Brunson threw up his hands, underscored the sentiment that he knew he recognized that he had done wrong.

“By the time I got there, you could tell the guy realized what he had done,” DeLeon said.

Ryan Hawkins, superintendent of the Nyssa School District, commended the restraint shown by DeLeon, his coaching staff, wrestlers and the parents.

DeLeon said Froerer’s parents, who had interacted with Brunson after the incident at one point, showed remarkable poise and cool heads.

“That’s the highest restraint you could show,” DeLeon said. “Your child is attacked and you’re able to sit back and say, ‘let’s figure this out, let’s make sure we can make the right decisions for our kid and our family.'”

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that Brunson’s company, Click Funnels is located in Eagle.

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