Blazier trial begins; accuser testifies
Former wrestling coach is charged with sexual assault
HOLLIDAYSBURG — A 16-year-old told a Blair County jury Tuesday that he remembers his reaction in spring 2019 to being sexually assaulted by his wrestling coach at Bellwood-Antis Middle School.
“I was just in shock,” the teenager said as he recalled that day when he was wrestling with then coach Ryan L. Blazier, now an inmate at the county prison who is facing sexual assault charges.
“I froze,” the teenager said as he spoke of Blazier’s fingers inside his body.
The teenager said it hurt, but he told the jury he couldn’t describe that pain. When asked if he cried out in response, the youth said yes and told the jurors that his cry was “like a yell.”
The youth said he would have been 13 years old at that time.
The trial for the 41-year-old Blazier began Tuesday, with District Attorney Pete Weeks advising jurors that he and First Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith are seeking guilty verdicts on charges of institutional sexual assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, indecent assault, corruption of minors and witness intimidation.
The charges, filed by state police in Hollidaysburg, reflect allegations rendered by two youths, including the one who testified Tuesday and a second who may testify today or Thursday.
The witness intimidation charge reflects allegations by the youth who testified Tuesday who said Blazier, after the assault, told him not to tell anyone what happened or that he would hurt his family members.
The youth also admitted that he didn’t tell anyone for months about the assault.
“Cause I didn’t want anybody finding out,” the youth said.
The youth’s allegations surfaced in early February 2020 when state police questioned him at his residence.
The youth’s stepmother testified Tuesday that she reached out to state police after hearing that her stepson was the student wrestler Blazier was allegedly assaulting in spring 2019. That assault was allegedly interrupted when a school janitor used his key to unlock and enter the wrestling room.
The stepmother said she and her husband had asked the youth about the allegations and he denied anything happened.
Defense attorney Thomas M. Dickey cautioned jurors against getting caught up in the rumors that circulated based on the janitor’s claims.
In his opening statement on Blazier’s behalf, Dickey told the jurors the janitor “has an ax to grind against the school” based on poor work performance reviews.
Dickey also advised the jurors that wrestling is a physically tough sport involving one’s hands, legs and “a lot of uncompromising positions.”
Weeks challenged that claim by questioning the testifying teenager about his love and knowledge of wrestling. When Weeks had the youth define a “dirty wrestler,” the youth said that’s a term for someone who pulls on the opponent’s head gear or hair.
“Have you ever had another wrestler or coach do to you what Ryan Blazier did?” Weeks asked the youth.
“No,” the teenager replied.
Prosecutors also relied on Dr. Barbara Ziv, a Philadelphia forensic psychiatrist, who told the jurors it’s not unusual for children to delay reporting sexual abuse because they were threatened to keep quiet or because of the enormous shame.
Jackie Condron, a forensic interviewer with the Altoona Center for Child Justice, said that when she interviewed the youth on Feb. 20, 2020, he told her that he had been molested by his wrestling coach. He also struggled to answer many related questions, she said, often crossing his arms and looking at the floor.
The jurors were able to watch a portion of the videotaped interview with the teenager, including periods where he remained silent and told her that he didn’t want to answer her questions. When she asked him what “molesting” means to him, he didn’t answer. But he did tell her that the school “added a window in the wrestling room” so people can now see inside.
Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 814-946-7456.