(CN) – A highly recruited high school wrestler claims American University’s coach lied to and mistreated him by telling him that if he told the truth about contracting Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus from wrestling while injured he “could kiss his scholarship good bye.”
Adam LoPiccolo claims that when he met American University wrestling coach Mark Cody he was “one of the most highly recruited wrestlers in the nation, with approximately 40 NCAA Division 1 wrestling scholarship offers,” including offers from perennial powerhouses the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota.
LoPiccolo says that American University’s program “was nearly non-existent in terms of national exposure or prominence” when Cody was hired, but LoPiccolo says the school made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: “100 percent full athletic scholarship … that covered tuition, fees, board and books.”
LoPiccolo sued Cody, the university, and its athletic director Robert Acunto, in Philadelphia Federal Court. He says his relationship with Cody began to go downhill almost immediately.
Despite the coach’s promise of immediate admission, LoPiccolo says he was rejected and had to attend a semester of college in Pennsylvania before being admitted. This forced him to exercise his one-time transfer rights to transfer from one NCAA institution to another.
When he arrived at American University, LoPiccolo says he excelled in the classroom and on the wrestling mat, but his relationship with Cody continued to deteriorate. He says the tension stemmed from the coach’s insistence on wrestling against him on a regular basis at the end of hours-long practices.
He claims that Cody often made veiled threats about his scholarship status, telling him he “owned him.”
During one of their post-practice “matches,” LoPiccolo says, Cody cut his arm with his fingernails. Despite profuse bleeding and the mixing of blood and sweat that was exacerbating the pain and possibility of infection, he says Cody refused to let him stop and put on a bandage.
LoPiccolo says Cody told him to “be a warrior” and keep wrestling. The student says he developed a serious infection, Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus (MRSA), and was told he would need surgery to remove infected tissue. But he claims that after Cody talked with his physician over the telephone, his diagnosis was changed and he was given a discharge sheet allowing him to compete in a tournament the following day.
That when Cody told him that if he mentioned MRSA, he “could kiss his scholarship good bye,” according to the complaint.
LoPiccolo did poorly in the tournament, but bounced back the next year, again leading the team to the nationals.
Despite this success, LoPiccolo says, Cody told him at a team meeting that his scholarship had become a handicap to the team and was being reduced from $50,000 to $5,000.
LoPiccolo says his mother contacted the coach, told him she knew about the MRSA incident, and got the scholarship reinstated.
LoPiccolo claims that from that point on his relationship with the coach worsened, with the coach continuing to insist on wrestling him, berating him and requiring him to perform extra duties.
The final break occurred after LoPiccolo contracted the flu in January 2007 and was prescribed bed rest by doctors. LoPiccolo said he later discovered that Cody had scheduled an unannounced random drug test during his absence.
The day after the test, Cody called LoPiccolo to tell him was a “done at American University,” was “no longer on the wrestling team,” and that his athletic scholarship was revoked “immediately,” according to the complaint.
LoPiccolo claims that athletic director Acunto and the university board of trustees knows of Cody’s actions, but did nothing about them.
LoPiccolo seeks more than $75,000 in damages, and costs, on claims of breach of contract, breach of faith, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and negligence.
He is represented by Tracy Hunt with Timby Hunt of Newtown, Pa.