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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Idaho wrestling coach hit a 14-year-old. He struck this deal to avoid criminal charges

By Michael Lycklama Idaho Statesman

Former Rocky Mountain High assistant coach Russell Brunson will not face criminal charges after striking a 14-year-old wrestler from another school multiple times in January.

The Nampa Police Department recommended battery and injury-to-child misdemeanor charges for Brunson after he ran onto the mat at his son’s match and hit a freshman from Nyssa, Oregon, at least three times, video shared with the Idaho Statesman showed.

The charges recommended in a probable cause affidavit carried a maximum possible sentence of 18 months in jail, but Canyon County prosecutors opted to sign a non-prosecution agreement with Brunson last month instead of filing charges.

The deal requires Brunson to abide by a lifetime ban from coaching Idaho high school sports, as well as a ban on attending any high school sporting event through the 2024-25 school year.

Brunson may not appeal either ban and also may not commit any new crimes for a year without voiding the deal and possibly facing charges.

“After thoroughly reviewing the case, (the prosecutor’s office) determined that the administrative penalties were a more appropriate remedy than anything it could have accomplished by filing criminal charges,” the Canyon County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office wrote in an emailed statement.

Brunson previously said he believed his son was placed in an illegal choke hold, and he feared for his safety. Video showed him pointing to the hold before rushing onto the mat and hitting the opposing wrestler.

“There is no excuse for my actions on January 20th,” Brunson told the Idaho Statesman in a text message in January. “I should not have stepped onto the mat and tried to break up the wrestling match. I saw my child in a potentially dangerous position and reacted rashly.”

Nampa police wrote in the probable cause affidavit that the Nyssa wrestler was punched in the ribs and later said he had pain in that area. A police report also noted “another video shows the first hit was with an open hand, and then two punches with a closed fist to … (the) right ribs.”

Brunson resigned his volunteer coaching position after the incident. The District Three Board of Control, the local high school sports governing body, then banned Brunson from coaching and attending high school sporting events.

“The board felt the actions of coach Brunson were egregious and unacceptable,” board president Craig Woods wrote in a letter to Rocky Mountain. “There is no place for this type of behavior in high school athletics, and it will not be tolerated.”

A West Ada School District spokesperson initially told the Idaho Statesman that Brunson planned to appeal the bans. But the Statesman confirmed he did not appeal either ban to the local board of control or to the Idaho High School Activities Association.