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Lawsuit against Wisconsin Rapids school wrestling program settled

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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAU) -- The lawsuit between a former wrestler and the Wisconsin Rapids school district has been settled.

The case involves a wrestler that claimed he was harassed and bullied by other wrestlers when he was in the ninth grade.

Attorney Christine Bremer represented Josiah Kreist, who is now an adult, and began the lawsuit. She says this was a difficult case with a great deal of investigation and documentation to review.  “It was a very difficult case and it took a long time to resolve, so we’re very happy for our client that it came out to his satisfaction, and he feels very happy and vindicated as a result of the settlement.”

The actions of four other Wisconsin Rapids wrestlers included grabbing the victim’s hair and genitals. Coaches did little to stop the behavior. The other four wrestlers were charged with disorderly conduct.

Bremer says it took a lot for Kreist to step forward and challenge the school and the program to change the culture in the locker room.  “As a result of his courage and coming forward as the victim of really terrible conduct, he really made a change happen in the wrestling program at the state champion wrestling program of our state in Wisconsin Rapids, so he’s very proud of that, and he feels now, not only vindications but also hope for the future and he’s regained the confidence that he had sorely lost.”

As a result of the case, two Wisconsin Rapids coaches were not rehired, and new guidelines were set.  Bremer says, “They are many, but one of the most important was that a guideline was put in place so that students in a wrestling locker room were never unsupervised again, and that there would always be adult supervision in a locker room so that the conduct that took place will never, hopefully, take place again.”

Bremer says the settlement means the settlement closes the file on this case, and her client is moving forward.  “No, we’re all done now. Josiah looks forward to starting initiation in a wonderful university in Washington, D.C. and the school district looks forward to hopefully bringing back a wrestling program they can be proud of.”

Bremer says this case has always been about bringing changes to eliminate bullying and not about money, but says the settlement is a six-figure sum.

The case has also caught the attention of attorneys and school administrators elsewhere. Bremer says she has fielded several phone calls and questions about this case.  “I heard from colleagues and lawyers all over the country who had been involved in bullying cases and this wrestling situation was so unusual, that people looked at it and it caused school districts across the country to look at their own wrestling programs to make certain that bullying wasn’t taking place in their programs, and to revisit their policies and guidelines, and so from that standpoint I think it had a really great effect.”

Bremer says the Josiah Kreist case against the Wisconsin Rapids school district was an example of someone having the courage to stand up against tough odds to change a problem.  “It’s a great case about someone who’s small, who’s disabled, weak really, and showed that he was stronger than anyone and he was able to stand up, make a statement, and then stand behind it and fight, even though it was probably one of the hardest things in the world for him to do, and he did it.”

Kreist was diagnosed with a movement disorder called Chorea, and also wore glasses and hearing aids. He began wrestling in 3rd grade at Wausau, and moved to Wisconsin Rapids just before his freshman year. He transferred to the Port Edwards team after one season in Wisconsin Rapids. Now 19-years-old, Kreist is attending Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. after graduating from the Wisconsin School for the Deaf.

(Listen to our interview with attorney Christine Bremer Muggli on our website, here.)

 

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