Joe Russell was named the ninth head wrestling coach in George Mason history in July 2011. He arrived in Fairfax following an outstanding career as an assistant at the University of Minnesota.
In his three years as head coach, Russell has guided the Patriots to a 16-45 dual record, making improvements on Mason’s winless season three years ago. Russell also coached Mendbagana Tovuujav and Vincent Rodriquez to a bid into the NCAA National Tournament in 2011 and Jake Kettler in 2012. He coached current wrestler Sahid Kargbo in representing USA Wrestling at Junior World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2012 as well.
Russell has assisted in coaching three NCAA championship teams, 11 individual national champions, six Big Ten title teams, 31 individual conference champions and 84 All-America honorees while a member of the University of Minnesota wrestling staff. As the leader of the Golden Gophers’ recruiting efforts, Russell established Minnesota’s place among the nation’s elite.
In June of 2007, Russell was presented with the Medal of Courage from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The Medal of Courage is presented annually to a wrestler or former wrestler who has overcome what appeared to be insurmountable challenges, which may be physical, mental or other handicaps making his or her achievements all the more uplifting. In 1985, a horrifying motorcycle accident left Russell partially paralyzed on the left side of his body. He spent three weeks in a drug-induced coma and the process of recovery was long and grueling, but he recovered fully and has not let his physical challenges stop him from achieving greatness both on and off the mat.
Russell also coached with the Minnesota Storm Junior World and University teams. Under Russell’s tutelage, the Storm 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.
In 1998, he served as the coach of Team USA in a world freestyle dual versus Germany. Also in 1998, he was selected as the coach for the USA Wrestling Tour de Monde team in Hungary. Russell coached Team USA in another world freestyle dual meet versus Cuba in 1999 and went on to coach the U.S. 17-and-under team at the Cadet World Championships in August 1999 in Denmark. For his efforts, Russell was voted the 1999 USA Wrestling Person of the Year for the University and FILA Junior Age Divisions.
In the summer of 2000, Russell was selected to coach the U.S. Junior Team at the 2000 Pan American Championships in Peru. In 2001, he coached a team of USA All-Stars in the First Annual Utah Greco-Roman Challenge in Sandy, Utah. He has also been selected as one of the coaches for the USA team at the Junior Pan American Championships in Toronto, Canada on June 27-29, 2014.
Russell wrestled at Minnesota from 1988-92. In his senior season, he served as team captain, was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team and was the winner of the team’s Dean Fraser Most Courageous Wrestler award. He also competed for Athletes in Action on a summer tour to Australia and New Zealand.
Russell earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1992 and completed his juris doctorate in the spring of 1995. He is a licensed attorney and completed his master in sports management in December of 2006. Also in his time as Minnesota, he has taught within the kinesiology department as well as directed studies courses.
Russell and his wife, Sadie, have a son Taft.