A former George Mason University coach is going to Tokyo to guide the U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

Joe Russell, the former head coach for the men’s wrestling team at Mason, is one of six official coaches currently in Japan to work with the Men’s Freestyle team at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Russell and the other coaches will work alongside the team’s head coach Bill Zadick who has coached the U.S. team for the last five years.

Considered one of the most beloved coaches in the country, Russell was the head coach of the Mason men’s team from 2011 until 2017. During his tenure Russell guided the Patriots to a 41-82 dual record, this was a massive improvement when compared to the university’s winless streak the year prior to Russell coming onboard. 

Russell was replaced by his assistant coach Mark Weader who had previously held the position of head coach from 2005-2011 and held a 39-56-2 record in that time frame. 

“I am thankful for the opportunity to have served as the head wrestling coach at George Mason University,” said Russell of his tenure back in 2017. “This experience has helped me grow as a person and I am proud of the progress we made during my tenure. Seeing the team win 41 dual meets and having eight wrestlers compete at the NCAA Championships was gratifying. Even more so, seeing the wrestlers graduate and seeing the great alums Mason Wrestling is helping produce makes me proud to be a Patriot. George Mason University will always hold a special spot in my heart.”

After his tenure with Mason, Russell began working with USA Wrestling as the manager of its freestyle programs. Russell has been heavily involved in USA Wrestling throughout his career and earned coaching bids with the organization for more than 20 years.

In 1998, Russell coached Team USA in meets against Germany and Hungary and again in 1999 in bouts against Cuba and Denmark. Those efforts won Russell the 1999 USA Wrestling Person of the Year in the University and FILA Junior Age Divisions.

In 2000, Russell was selected to coach the U.S. Junior Team in the Pan American Championships in Peru and would go on to serve on the coaching staff in 2002, 2004, and 2014 at the Junior Pan American Championships. 

As a competitor, Russell wrestled collegiately for the University of Minnesota from 1988 to 1992. He was named team captain during his senior year as well as acquiring Academic All-Big Ten honors.

Russell and Zadick joins four other coaches as part of the staff for this year’s USA wrestling team. This includes Matt Lindland and Herb House, both of whom will coach the Greco-Roman wrestling teams as well as Women’s Freestyle coaches Terry Steiner and Clarissa Chun.

The 2020 Olympic Wrestling events will begin August 1 and end August 7; the games can be viewed on NBC.

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