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‘Can’t be worse than the other sports,’ Wrestling coaches respond to Norman, Moore sex crime allegations

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OKLAHOMA - Area wrestling coaches are responding and defending the sport.

The topic hits a nerve with loyal wrestling fans.

They said wrestling is a sport of honor and integrity, but some in the psychology field said it's time to stop hiding crimes that are happening not only in wrestling but in other sports.

What you are seeing has been around since ancient Greek times, and it's the root of the sport that has parents speaking out.

"There's discipline and there's honor involved with it and, to see it escalate to the level that it has, I was quite shocked with it," said Justin Hackbarth, a parent of a wrestling student.

He's talking about the four Norman North High School students charged with sex crimes and the new allegations of similar crimes from the Moore school district.

"It doesn't seem like it would be representative of wrestling as a whole," Hackbarth said. "It seems like it's kind of an isolated incident."

"I've been involved with this sport since I was five, and I'm in my mid-40s now, and I've never heard of anything like this in the sport," said Karl Belford, an assistant coach for the Oklahoma Wrestling Academy.

A quick Google search found dozens of articles relating to sexual assault and hazing in the sport of wrestling.

ESPN citing incidents dating back 24 years ago.

"This sport has been around since the dawn of time," Belford said. "If that's the laundry list of incidents that have happened since wrestling has been around, as bad as it is, it can't be worse than the other sports that are around."

"I've been in practice probably 30 years and I'd say, the first five years, I had a couple of them," said Stewart Beasley, an Edmond psychologist.

Some parents said they still believe these recent cases are isolated.

"It shocked me that it happened, but it didn't really worry me as a mom," said Cari Madden, another wrestling parent. "I just don't see that here. From my experience, I don't see that being an issue."

"It can happen - anywhere, anytime, any place with any child," Beasley said. "For parents to put their head in the sand and say, 'Not my child, not my school, not this sport,' I think, is doing a great disservice to themselves, as well as their children."

As far as the incidents that surfaced Tuesday in Moore, detectives are still investigating.

Then, the district attorney will decide if criminal charges will be filed.