Wrongful death lawsuit filed by family of Blount County wrestler

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A lawsuit has been filed in the death of Grant Brace, a wrestler at the University of The Cumberlands and an East Tennessee native, who died last year at age 20.

Lexington-based law firm Hare Wynn, Newell & Newton, LLP announced Monday they have filed a complaint against the University of the Cumberlands; The Cumberland Foundation, Inc.; Cumberland Athletics Properties, Inc.; University President Dr. Larry Cockrum; Athletic Director Chris Kraftick; and coaches Jordan Countryman and Jake Sinkovics in the death of Grant Brace.

According to the lawsuit, Brace died during or directly after a wrestling practice on August 31, 2020. It alleges the defendants were negligent in causing Brace to suffer heatstroke and refusing to provide him with assistance and aid that could have saved his life.

The lawsuit claims Brace became ‘profoundly disoriented’ after a grueling practice and was ordered to ‘get out’ by coaches without any medical aid. They say Brace left the building in search of water and was later found dead outside of a construction fence on campus.

It claims the university failed to provide accommodations for Brace’s narcolepsy and ADHD and was often singled out by the coaching staff as a result.

The lawsuit also alleges that Countryman and Sinkovics created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the wrestling program through emotional manipulation, emotional abuse, and physical abuse that resulted in injury to other student-athletes beyond Brace.

The University of the Cumberlands released the following statement in response to the lawsuit:

Earlier today, University of the Cumberlands received notice of the lawsuit filed by the attorneys for Grant Brace’s family. Grant’s death was a tragic loss for his family, his friends, the University community, and all who knew him. In the wake of this tragedy, the University has tried its best to be sympathetic and respectful to Grant’s family and to ensure that all of its athletic programs, including the wrestling program, were and are being operated in a safe manner.  

The University questions several of the allegations in the complaint and does not feel that the complaint is a fair reflection of its wrestling program. Out of respect for all concerned and for the legal process, the University will not address individual allegations publicly but will instead present its defenses to the claims through the legal proceeding.

A native of Louisville, Tennessee, Brace graduated from Alcoa High School in 2018. He amassed a 128-33 wrestling record and was a three-time state champion in football, as well as a member of the National Honors Society. He was a featured varsity wrestler on the University of the Cumberlands men’s team, tallying three falls in his career, including a pin in the 2018 Patriot Open.

Tyler Stewart, an attorney at Hare Wynn said, “We are honored to represent the Brace family as they seek justice for the loss of their incredible son and brother. No parent or sibling should have to endure what they have experienced this last year.”

This is a developing story. Download the WATE 6 News app for updates sent to your phone.

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