Lawsuit: Bergen Catholic HS covered up wrestling coaches’ abuse

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A former high school wrestler has sued his Catholic high school, claiming that the 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.

Head coach David Bell has been at the school for about 20 years. Some of Bell’s former wrestlers took to Twitter to defend him and the team.

“Coach Bell is truly one of the greatest men I’ve ever met, and anyone who has ever encountered him can say the same. It is absolutely disgusting to see him get accused of something like this. This is 100% FAKE NEWS!” former student Josh McKenzie said.

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.

But an attorney for the accuser says that his client is "suffering emotionally and psychologically.”

“The isolation he’s felt from his teammates and his friends has become so significant he felt the need to stand up to this,” says attorney Andrew Miltenberg.

Miltenberg says that other victims have come forward recently as well.

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

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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