Former Penn State All-American sues coach, university, alleges years of abuse
A former Penn State All-American fencer who had Olympic aspirations alleged in a federal lawsuit filed Monday years of verbal, physical and psychological abuse carried out by her renowned coach.
She also accused the university of doing little to stop him.
The Nittany Lions' fencing team was a "hotbed for sexual assault and gender discrimination" during Zara Moss' time under coach Wes Glon, her attorneys wrote in the 22-page lawsuit.
A university spokesperson declined comment Tuesday. A spokesperson for the university's fencing team did not immediately respond. The program is one of the winningest in NCAA history.
"Wes's conduct towards women fencers was no secret. Penn State athletic directors and administrators knew about or had observed Wes's egregious behavior towards female fencers," attorney Chelsea Weaver wrote. "But Wes's prestige, influence, and connections were more important to Penn State than protecting its athletes. So, Penn State did nothing."
Moss' childhood dream was to attend Penn State and it was fencing that earned her a full scholarship. She attended annual Penn State fencing camps and was "thrilled" when Glon showed an interest in her.
But as the years passed, Weaver wrote, Moss learned of the "dark side of Wes Glon and Penn State fencing." The alleged abuse started her freshman year.
Glon was accused of hounding Moss about her weight and disparaged her when she gained a pound. Moss sent her mother "troubling" text messages almost daily and developed an eating disorder.
She constantly feared Glon would revoke her scholarship. He told her she was a "waste of his time and valuable scholarship money," the lawsuit alleged. She developed panic and anxiety symptoms that require medication.
Glon's alleged misconduct went beyond mental abuse.
Concussion issue: A teammate encouraged Moss to be evaluated for a concussion, but Glon allegedly told Moss she was being overly emotional and sensitive because he believed she was menstruating. She was not, Weaver wrote.
He was also accused of forcing her to fence without protective equipment during a lesson. It left her with bruises and scars that lasted for more than a year.
"Wes's abuse was particularly demeaning and humiliating because it was based on Zara's sex. Wes believed women fencers were weak and dramatic. Zara was anything but," Weaver wrote. "Yet because of Wes's relentless abuse, Zara often suffered severe panic attacks that left her unable to breathe."
Moss said the abuse continued her sophomore year. Glon's alleged sex-based criticisms included telling her she was not good anymore because she "needed a boyfriend."
Panic symptoms: Moss stopped competing internationally by her junior year because her panic symptoms worsened as a result of Glon's "relentless" abuse, the lawsuit said.
And, by her senior year, she was diagnosed with chronic compartment syndrome. Penn State doctors warned the nerve damage could be permanent if she did not properly recover, but Moss alleged her coach told her she was cleared to practice daily.
"Zara's mental and physical wellbeing meant nothing to Wes," Weaver wrote. "... Said simply, Wes applied different rules to his men and women fencers that ultimately placed the women on the team in significant danger."
Moss says university never "meaningfully" looked into the abuse: Moss reported the alleged abuse in March 2021. She was "terrified" of speaking with administrators and compliance officers because she feared retaliation from the coach who has been on the fencing team's staff for more than three decades, Weaver wrote.
Moss alleged the university "never meaningfully investigated these reports or took corrective action."
"Wes was an influential and powerful figure in the fencing community — with a clear connection to the U.S. Olympics fencing team," Weaver wrote. "Penn State officials prioritized keeping Wes at Penn State over protecting its women athletes. Penn State's inaction amounted to an official decision not to remedy the situation."
Moss asked that Penn State be required to perform a thorough investigation into Glon's past and ongoing treatment of female fencers. She's also seeking unspecified monetary damages.
A second lawsuit against school, Glon: Her lawsuit is the second pending against the university and Glon.
Jennifer Oldham, a North Carolina fencing club owner, accused former Penn State fencing assistant coach George Abashidze of groping and making lewd comments toward her during a December 2017 flight after a competition.
She accused Glon of failing to report the allegation as required. Abashidze was fired in March 2019.
Glon was placed on a three-year suspension in August 2021 by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. He was reinstated to his position in November after the suspension was lifted following a hearing before an arbitrator.