New Jersey School's Wrestling Program Under Fire, 2 Years After $1.9 Million Settlement

ORADELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – A former wrestler has sued his Catholic high school, claiming the New Jersey school and church officials conspired to cover up sexual and verbal abuse in its nationally recognized wrestling program.

The suit filed Monday alleges Bergen Catholic High School wrestling coaches shared pornographic images with team members, watched wrestlers strip naked and sent athletes inappropriate text messages. It also claims school and Archdiocese of Newark officials worked to shield the coaches.

In a statement issued Monday, Brother Brian Walsh – president of the school in Oradell – said the suit was “based on allegations that are unfounded, frivolous and untrue.” He said the school would vigorously defend itself.

School and archdiocese officials say they reported the abuse allegations to the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office when they learned about them.

According to NorthJersey.com, several athletes took to social media to defend wrestling coach David Bell and the school’s program.

In 2016, Bergen Catholic High School reached a nearly $2 million settlement with 21 alleged sex abuse victims, all former students at the private school. At that time, the alleged abuse cases spanned a 15-year period.

The lawsuit filed Monday does not name the plaintiff but alleges the incidents took place from September 2015 through January 2018.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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