Joe Russell has been hired as Manager of Freestyle Programs by USA Wresting, the national governing body for wrestling in the United States.
Russell will transition to his position at USA Wrestling, working under U.S. National Freestyle Coach Bill Zadick, after previously serving as the head coach at George Mason University for the past six years.
“I feel blessed and honored to be chosen to assist the Freestyle National Team. As a passionate advocate for wrestling from before I could even walk, this honor and responsibility given to me is breathtaking,” Russell said.
During his tenure at George Mason, Russell led the program to 41 dual-meet victories and coached six wrestlers to eight berths at the NCAA Championships. Prior to his arrival at George Mason, Russell was a longtime assistant coach at the University of Minnesota where he helped guide the Gophers to three NCAA team championships and six Big Ten championships. In addition, he coached 11 individual NCAA champions, 31 individual conference champions and 84 NCAA All-Americans.
“I’m really excited to get some help in the door, but to announce Joe Russell, and welcome he and his wife Sadie and their son Taft to the USA Wrestling family,” Zadick said. “As much as wrestling experience, Joe has a unique personality, character, and integrity that he’s just going to be a tremendous asset to our wrestling program, the men’s freestyle program, as an assistant coach and programs manager.”
Russell has extensive experience coaching the international styles and involvement with USA Wrestling throughout his coaching career. He was selected as coach for the U.S. Cadet Greco-Roman World Team in 1999 and 2013. Russell also coached three Junior Pan American Championship teams in freestyle and Greco-Roman in 2002, 2004 and 2014.
Among his other leadership experiences include coaching Team USA during international freestyle dual meets against Germany in 1997 and versus Cuba in 1999.
While at Minnesota, Russell also served as coach of the Minnesota Storm, where he led the program to four FILA Junior National Team Championships in both freestyle and Greco-Roman and three runner-up team finishes at the University National Championships during his tenure.
Russell served on the USA Wrestling Board of Directors as the FILA Junior and University Age Division Chair from 2011 to 2014, in addition to serving on the Minnesota USA Wrestling Board of Directors for several years.
“We are excited to welcome Joe Russell and his family to the USA Wrestling community. I am confident that Joe will immediately impact Team USA. His leadership skills developed at the University of Minnesota and George Mason University will serve our program well as we charge toward Tokyo,” said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director.
Russell was awarded the Medal of Courage by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007. The Medal of Courage is awarded to a wrestler or former wrestler has overcome what appear to be insurmountable challenges, providing inspiration to others. In 1985, Russell was partially paralyzed after suffering a motorcycle accident. He recovered from the injuries suffered in the accident to lead an inspiring life on and off the mat.
He was named USA Wrestling Person of the Year in 1999 for the University and FILA Junior age divisions and the USA Wrestling Greco-Roman Coach of the Year in 2013.
“I want to thank Bill Zadick, Rich Bender, Les Gutches, Cody Bickley, and USA Wrestling for the opportunity. I will do my utmost to be worthy of the trust placed on me. The one thing I can guarantee is I will give every ounce of my effort to get the job done. Bill Zadick’s vision for the program and wrestling in general is exciting. I can’t wait to help him move things forward. Go USA,” Russell said.
As a competitor, Russell wrestled collegiately for the University of Minnesota from 1988 to 1992. He was named team captain during his senior year, on top of acquiring Academic All-Big Ten honors. He was also presented the Dean Fraser Most Courageous Wrestler Award while at Minnesota.
Russell graduated from the University of Minnesota with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1992. Three years later, Russell earned his Juris Doctorate, and is a licensed attorney. In 2006, Russell accumulated a Master’s in sports management. He also taught within the kinesiology department and directed study courses while at Minnesota.
Russell will be joined in Colorado Springs by his wife Sadie and son Taft. Sadie has been heavily involved in the wrestling community for more than 20 years, working most recently with Beat the Streets D.C. since 2014 acting as executive director to help establish wrestling programs in Washington D.C. Sadie has also assisted the Wrestlers in Business Network with the NWCA All-Star Classic since 2013. At the age of 6, Taft already identifies himself as an aspiring wrestler.