Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty)

In April, Ohio State University announced that they were conducting an investigation into allegations that former Ohio State wrestling team doctor Richard Strauss had sexually abused male OSU athletes over his 20-year run with the team. Several former wrestlers accused Strauss of molesting them and inappropriately touching them during medical examinations, and a former wrestler told the school’s lawyers last month that, “Based on testimony from victim athletes from each of the aforementioned varsity sports, we estimate that Strauss sexually assaulted and/or raped a minimum of 1,500/2,000 athletes at OSU from 1978 through 1998.”

Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, representing Ohio’s 4th district since 2007, served as assistant coach on the OSU wrestling team from 1986 to 1994, and after repeatedly and publicly denying that he knew anything about Strauss’s behavior, several of his former wrestlers tell NBC News that Jordan must have known all about Strauss’s abusive practices and turned a blind eye. They say it was “common knowledge” that Strauss would shower with the team even though he didn’t participate in workouts, and per an anonymous wrestler, “everybody used to snicker about how you go into his office for a sore shoulder and he tells you to take your pants down.” Jordan’s locker was next to Strauss’s and one former wrestler tells NBC that Jordan told Strauss “he’d kill him if he tried anything,” and that Jordan once confronted Strauss after an athlete told him that Strauss had molested him.

“I considered Jim Jordan a friend,” former wrestler Mike DiSabato said. “But at the end of the day, he is absolutely lying if he says he doesn’t know what was going on.” He also said, “Everybody knew before you were going into the [examination] room that Doc Strauss was going to touch you. It was like a joke before you went in there.”

DiSabato said he told OSU about the abuse earlier this year after following along with the Larry Nassar trial. His accusations prompted OSU to start their investigation, and he even reached out to Jordan early in the process. Jordan said he didn’t know about anything and asked DiSabato to “please leave me out of it.”

Jordan won two NCAA titles while wrestling with Wisconsin in the mid-‘80s, and he once beat two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith twice in the same NCAA Tournament. He coached at OSU for eight years, all alongside Strauss, before beginning his political career. As a six-term member of Ohio’s 4th congressional district, he’s distinguished himself as one of the farther-right members of the House’s Freedom Caucus (which he chairs) and he’s been tabbed as a possible replacement for Paul Ryan. His greatest hits include yelling at Planned Parenthood leadership, attacking the Mueller investigation, and being labeled a “terrorist as a legislator” by John Boehner.

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His office told NBC News that Jordan “never heard about any abuse” when he was an OSU coach. All the wrestlers who spoke to NBC News said Jordan was a friendly coach who was close with his athletes, which, to them, only made his alleged inaction in preventing them from being abused that much worse.

“He’s a great guy. We would have all these great talks with him and he talked about how one day he’d be the president of the United States. So it’s sad for me to hear that he’s denying knowing about Strauss,” [Dunyasha Yetts] said. “I don’t know why he would, unless it’s a cover-up. Either you’re in on it, or you’re a liar.”

[NBC News]