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Christian university to pay $14M over student wrestler’s death


A Christian university in Kentucky has agreed to a $14 million settlement over the death of a student-athlete who died after allegedly begging for water and being denied access to it during on-campus workouts.

The student, 20-year-old Grant Brace from Louisville, Tennessee, was a junior at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg at the time of his death. Brace was a member of the school’s wrestling team and died from a heat stroke on August 31, 2020, after practice. 

His family sued the university, arguing that the boy’s death was “tragic and entirely avoidable.” 

“Grant was a talented, well-liked young man entering his junior year with a bright future ahead of him,” University Chancellor Jerry Jackson said in a statement shared with The Christian Post.

While the university asserted that it could have defended itself against the lawsuit, the school noted that the process would have been “long, difficult, and costly, ending years from now in a trial with an uncertain outcome.”

Instead, the university claims it settled the case in a manner it “hopes will respect the Brace family’s tremendous loss.”

“Our University community continues to mourn his untimely loss,” Jackson continued. “We sincerely hope that resolving this matter early in the legal process will offer the Brace family a measure of peace and healing.”

According to the university’s statement, it will ensure its athletic department protocols align with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics standards for addressing heat illness. The NAIA requires staff members associated with NAIA Championship Events to be familiar with the signs of heat-related illness and adhere to specific guidelines for scheduled water breaks, depending on the severity of the temperature. 

“The safety of the University’s students and athletes has been and always will be the top priority of the University,” the school’s statement continued.

In addition to the $14 million settlement, the university agreed to participate in a “heat-illness training project” with a “nationally recognized expert in the field.” The school also agreed to promote the Brace family’s efforts to raise awareness about heat-related illnesses.

As The Lexington Herald-Leader reported, Brace died on the wrestling team’s first training day of the season. After practice, coach Jordan Countryman and assistant coach Jake Sinkovics allegedly had the team sprint up and down a steep hill called “punishment hill” for seven circuits. 

Brace completed several circuits before sitting down in exhaustion, according to the outlet. In the lawsuit filed by the family, the student-athlete reportedly said, “I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”

According to WLBT, Brace had narcolepsy and ADHD. He has also prescribed Adderall, a stimulant that can make it easier for users to experience dehydration. As his condition continued to deteriorate, the college wrestler reportedly begged his coaches for water. 

The lawsuit claimed that the coaches did not provide Brace with water, nor did they contact a trainer or emergency medical personnel. The young athlete eventually left to drink from a water fountain that did not work. After attempting to enter a nearby building, he collapsed. 

Forty-five minutes after the college wrestler left practice, Countryman and Sinkovics began searching for Brace. According to the lawsuit, the pair of coaches eventually found him lying on the ground dead with his hands clenched in the grass and dirt.

Countryman or Sinkovics are no longer coaches at the University of the Cumberlands. 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: [email protected]. Follower her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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