Wrestler denies involvement in fight

by Sarah Mitchell

Gophers wrestler Mike Cuperus said Tuesday he didn’t throw the punch that broke the nose of University student Don Johnson early Sunday morning.
Minneapolis police arrested Cuperus Sunday on charges of third-degree assault. Cuperus admitted being at the site of the confrontation in front of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house at 1711 University Ave. S.E., but said he was not involved.
“I didn’t punch anybody. I have no marks on my hand,” Cuperus said. “I know that three out of the five witnesses are going to say this.”
Cuperus, 20, said he was released from police custody Monday. But on Monday evening, police officials said Cuperus wouldn’t be released until noon Tuesday. He was arrested previously in Hennepin County for driving with a revoked license and furnishing false information to police in October.
Johnson, 20, declined to comment further on the situation, but said he still plans to press charges. A member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, Johnson said he expects to meet with the officer in charge of the investigation today.
Cuperus said he had just left 18-and-up night at Sparky’s Bar when he and his friends ran into an argument in front of the fraternity house.
“I was just standing there. There was some pushing, but I was not involved,” Cuperus said. “I got hit in the forehead with a full can of beer from about 10 feet away. One of the guys that I was with said it broke open and bounced into the street. I don’t remember much after that point because I was in a daze. I don’t remember throwing a punch.”
Cuperus, who began bleeding from the forehead, left the scene with his friends shortly after the incident. Cuperus reached the corner of University and 15th avenues southeast before being picked up by Minneapolis police.
“The police came and saw that I had blood all over me so they grabbed me,” Cuperus said. “They didn’t really ask me any questions. They just said that (Johnson) had identified me.”
In accordance with Minnesota’s student-athlete handbook, Cuperus has been suspended from the team pending further investigation for allegedly “violating the law and personal rights of others.”
If the alleged violation involves a misdemeanor violation of the law, “the parameters of any team penalty fall within the jurisdiction of that particular sport.” The athletic department, however, must approve the disciplinary action.
Gophers coach J Robinson declined to comment because “there’s nothing new in the investigation.” A team meeting was held on Tuesday during which members of the wrestling team were instructed to avoid speaking about the incident.
The four witnesses identified in the police report could not be reached for comment.