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Trial of former Gaston wrestling coach charged with sex crimes begins

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Photo Mike Hensdill - The Gaston Gazette
Former high school wrestling coach Scott Goins was in court Thursday, July 17, 2014 as jury selection continued at the Gaston County Courthouse on North Marietta Street in Gastonia. Here, Scott Goins and his lawyer Brent Ratchford talk together.

GASTONIA A former high school wrestling coach with a reputation for winning matches also had another agenda: sex with his team members, a prosecutor said Thursday in Gaston County Superior Court.

Gary Scott Goins, 46, is standing trial on 20 felony sex crime charges, including indecent liberties with a child, statutory rape, sex offense with a student, and crimes against nature.

Goins is accused of committing the alleged crimes against three former members of his wrestling team at East Gaston High School between 1998 and 2004.

During opening statements Thursday, Gaston District Attorney Locke Bell told jurors that testimony will show how an eighth-grade wrestler at a Mount Holly school was approached by Goins about training at East Gaston High after school and joining a team that traveled to wrestling matches around the country.

What the young man didn’t know was that he was expected to sleep with Goins, Bell said.

Testimony will also show how Goins demonstrated what he called “mind training” for wrestlers, the prosecutor said. That consisted of locking team members in a bedroom, turning off the lights and having them take off their clothes, Bell said.

On a trip to DisneyWorld, Bell said, Goins directed older and bigger team members to make younger wrestlers strip to their underwear in a motel and apply makeup to them. Bell said Goins then directed the older members to take photos of the other wrestlers in homosexual poses.

Bell said testimony will show how Goins made wrestlers strip naked, duct-taped their underwear and made them do exercises. Sex sometimes took place in school after practice, he said.

For the victims, “right and wrong and sexuality were blurred,” Bell said.

In 2013, Bell said, one victim came forward and told police. Goins was charged that year.

Defense attorney Brent Ratchford said that while the prosecution portrayed Goins as a predator, “at the end of the trial there will be a very different destination.”

Whenever the wrestling team traveled, “parents were around all the time,” Ratchford said. “And siblings were around all the time.”

Goins was tough as a wrestling coach and also as a teacher, Ratchford said.

“He expected a lot, and he got results,” Ratchford said. “He made winners. Some people couldn’t hack it. They quit and moved on.”

Ratchford told the jury that he had a “different” take on some of the things that took place on wrestling team trips, describing them as “kids being kids.”

The prosecution’s depiction of sexualized behavior doesn’t fit with a 20-year veteran wrestling coach who “had strict rules about cursing, dating, being on time, drinking and drugging,” Ratchford said. “He was developing young men and developing champions and winners.”

As for those bringing the charges, “there’s a reason behind what they’re saying,” he said.

In 2009, Ratchford said, one of the men “asked this terrible monster (Goins) to be in his wedding. There’s a reason behind this attack. Sometimes it’s what you don’t hear that screams the loudest.”

Ratchford explained to jurors that while they will hear “some very graphic terms and very graphic stories and you’ll see some pictures, there are no pictures of sex acts.”

He asked jurors to keep an open mind.

Jury selection began Monday and wrapped up Thursday afternoon with the seating of a third alternate.

The trial resumes at 9:30 a.m. Friday with Judge Jesse Caldwell presiding.

DePriest: 704-868-7745
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