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|Russell to receive the Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
STILLWATER, OKLA. - Joe Russell of Vadnais Heights, Minn. will receive the Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum.
Russell will be inducted, along with other special award winners and the Class of 2007 Distinguished Members, at the 2007 Honors Weekend Banquet and Induction Ceremony June 2, 2007 in Stillwater, Okla.
The Medal of Courage is presented annually to a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome what appear to be insurmountable challenges, which may be physical, mental or other handicaps that make his or her achievements all the more uplifting.
Joe Russell has built an outstanding career as a college wrestling coach and attorney, with many other activities that has impacted society, in spite of extreme physical challenges caused by a terrible motorcycle accident when he was in high school.
Russell was one of the nation's top high school wrestling stars, winning two state titles and earning a 90-1 record through his junior year at Gresham High School in Oregon. Russell won major competitions such as the Junior Nationals and the Espoir Nationals, and competed on U.S. Schoolboy and Espoir World Teams. While still in high school, Russell earned national rankings in Greco-Roman on the Senior level. The motorcycle accident was severe, almost taking his life and leaving Russell with numerous physical challenges.
Although his recovery was grueling, Russell did not allow this to stop him from achieving, both on and off the mat. He was the captain of the High School Dream Team as well as the honorary captain of Team USA vs. Pennsylvania at the Dapper Dan Classic.
Russell attended the Univ. of Minnesota as an undergraduate, where competed on the wrestling team, served as team captain and made the All-Big Ten Academic Team. He was also the winner of the team's Fraser Dean Most Courageous Wrestler award. He also competed for Athletes in Action on a summer tour to Australia and New Zealand. As a student-athlete at Minnesota, Russell was named an IBM Student-Athlete of the Week
Russell went on to receive a law degree from Minnesota in 1995 and a Masters degree in sports management in 1996. He made the Dean's List in law school his last two years.
Russell served two years as the Marketing and Promotions Manager for the Univ. of Minnesota wrestling team, and has since served as Assistant Wrestling Coach for the Gophers for the last 11 years. Working along with head coach J Robinson and the other Gopher coaches, Russell's leadership has allowed Minnesota to finish in the top-three at the NCAA Championships eight of the last 10 years, more than any other school in the country. The Gophers have also finished in the top-two at the Big Ten Tournament nine out of the last 10 years, winning the title five times, including three straight championships from 2001-03.
He also taught within the kinesiology department at the U of M as well as directed studies courses.
Russell has also coached with the Minnesota Storm club, developing numerous age-group national champions and All-Americans and winning four FILA Junior National Team titles for the club. The Storm have won four FILA Junior National Team Championships in both freestyle and Greco-Roman since 1996, with their last freestyle title coming in 2004. He also led the Storm to a second-place finish at the 1997, '98 and '99 University National Championships.
He has had numerous international coaching assignments with USA Wrestling, coaching the 1999 Cadet World Team and the 2000 Pan American Junior Team. Russell has coached U.S. teams in Venezuela, Hungary, Peru and Denmark, as well as U.S. teams in dual meets against Germany and Cuba. In 2001, he coached a team of USA All-Stars in the First Annual Utah Greco-Roman Challenge in Sandy, Utah.
He was named 1999 USA Wrestling FILA Junior/University Person of the Year, for his leadership within the organization in these age-level programs.
An ambassador of the sport, Russell conducted a week-long clinic for enlisted personnel and their children at the U.S. Naval Base in Sasebo, Japan in 2005.
Russell's brother, Dan, was a four-time Oregon high school state champion, compiling a perfect 95-0 overall record. He was also a four-time NCAA Division II National Champion at Portland State, only the second wrestler to ever accomplish that feat.