Olympic coach leaves Phoenix to face charges in Poland

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by Jared Dillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 9:49 PM

Updated Saturday, Jan 19 at 9:50 AM

PHOENIX -- World Champion wrestler and Olympic coach Roman Wroclawski turned himself in Wednesday, to be deported to his native Poland.

The 57-year-old is wanted on misdemeanor embezzlement charges, which date back to the 1990s.  He's accused of stealing equipment from his own business in Poland.

Wroclawski's supporters call the charges bogus, and politically-motivated.  His defenders say Polish authorities are angry over Wroclawski's outspoken criticism of corruption in his homeland.

Wroclawski hopes he will be able to show the statute of limitations has expired on the charges once he gets to Poland.

After moving to the United States with his family 20 years ago, Wroclawski became a legal resident.

He helped coach Olympian Rulon Gardner to gold at the Sydney games.

"I still say I love this country and I respect this court system," Wroclawski told 3TV, before turning himself in.

"Last night, I reviewed my 20 years in the US. Full of exciting moments and many very nice moments," he reflected.

Many of his current wrestlers came to say goodbye, as Wroclawski walked up the steps to the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse in Phoenix.

"It's a scary thought, not knowing what's going to happen to him. We're just hoping for the best," said Jose Coronel, who trains with Wroclawski.

"He kind of got screwed over in this situation," added Gabriella Foster, another of his athletes.

"We don't know what's going to happen to him and that's the hardest thing," said Daniel Huber. "What's going to happen in Poland? What's going to happen when he's turned over?"

Wroclawski's future in the Polish justice system, including a timeline for him to answer to his charges, is unknown.

"I'll make a resurrection someday," Wroclawski said, as he hugged supporter Peggy Roberts.

"When he gets to Poland, we don't know what's going to happen," Roberts later said. "I'd assume the government there won't give him the best representation in court."

In addition to competitive wrestlers, Wroclawski trains law enforcement officers, military units, and helps veterans overcome PTSD through mixed martial arts (MMA) and wrestling.

"Roman played a pivotal role in helping me overcome a lot of the symptoms I was feeling," Iraq War Veteran Kyle Dubay said. "Just having Roman there to teach us and take us under his wing is what really helped me."

"He's been giving his time, donating it to soldiers with PTSD. He's helped them relieve that anger and that frustration, helping them put it on a wrestling mat instead of a negative outlet," said Daniel Dobson. "We shouldn't be letting a guy like this go this easily"

Wroclawski's wife, Helena, wept after saying goodbye to her husband and leaving the courthouse.

"Thirty-five years, we were together for good and worse. I hope everything will be ok. I'll be waiting for him," she said.

It's unclear how long Wroclawski will be held in the United States before his extradition. Intervention by the US State Department could keep him here, but it is unlikely.

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