In his second day on the witness stand, the former East Gaston High School wrestling coach charged with molesting team members said he never had any sort of sexual contact with any of his athletes.
Gary Scott Goins, 46, is accused of committing sex crimes against three former members of his wrestling team between 1998 and 2004.
Much of Monday’s questioning focused on the wrestling team’s culture of roughhousing, including with the coaches. It also addressed the dynamics of Goins’ relationships with the three accusers.
Goins described horseplay as prevalent on his teams, not only player-on-player but also player-on-coach. He said that those who did not wish to participate were not pressured to do so, but many players regularly engaged in roughhousing with one another, and Goins was included.
He described the practice of “choking out,” or choking someone until they become unconscious, as a relatively common occurrence – something that players did to one another and he did to his players, but never with the intent to seriously harm or offend.
Beyond horseplay such as this, however, Goins said that he did not have any serious physical contact with his wrestlers and did not engage in any sort of sexual relationship with them.
In previous testimony, the accusers stated that Goins molested them during individual “mental training” sessions. On Monday, Goins said that there was not touching of any sort in these sessions, which required visualizing calming scenarios in order to help with relaxation and pain management.
Goins said that he had a close personal relationship with all three of the accusers and stayed in contact with each of them for years after they graduated from high school and the wrestling team. As evidence for these relationships, the defense provided Father’s Day cards written to Goins by one of the accusers, as well as the fact that Goins was invited to be a groomsman in the 2008 wedding of another.
The Observer’s policy is not to publish the names of sexual abuse victims.
Defense attorney Brent Ratchford also questioned Goins regarding an incident one of the accusers brought up in earlier testimony – a suicide plan Goins allegedly brought to the accuser several months ago, saying that he wanted to die and needed the accuser to help kill him.
The accuser said that he accompanied Goins to a park and followed Goins’ instructions to choke him until he was unconscious. He put a rope around Goins’ neck, planning to twist it tightly for eight minutes – the amount of time Goins had set on his watch timer, the witness testified.
The witness said he ran away when he thought he heard the watch go off. Goins came to and walked back to East Gaston High School, the witness said.
On Monday, Goins testified that there was no such suicide plan. He testified that he woke up in the woods that night, and he was taken to the hospital.
But he remembered little about the day in question, he said, and had been told by doctors that he had suffered either a seizure or an episode of transient global amnesia before waking up alone in the woods.
The court also heard from former East Gaston wrestler Ben Hart, who said that in his three years on the team he did not experience sexual abuse from Goins, nor did he witness any interactions he felt to be inappropriate between Goins and other wrestlers.
Hart also addressed an incident that had been discussed in previous testimony, an overnight trip on which older teammates forced Hart and another underclassman wrestler to strip to their underwear, wear makeup and pose in sexual positions for photographs.
Goins has testified he was present for the incident.
Although the event was “demeaning” at the time, Hart said, there were no lingering hard feelings and he understood it to be hazing without any sexual or malicious component.
“I didn’t come away feeling that I was sexually abused,” Hart said. “It was hazing. I get it.”
In his testimony, Goins also characterized the incident as hazing.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Baccellieri: 704-358-5826; Twitter: @emmabaccellieri
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