While he was wrestling his way to the championship at 123 pounds at the Ken Lesser Memorial Long Island Summer Heat Tournament, Joseph Russ could hear his brother William in his corner, coaching him. He knew his mother, Marylou, was looking on in the stands. And he was well aware that he had another fan shouting words of encouragement … from halfway around the world.
Joseph’s older brother Stephen Russ, a former competitor for St. Anthony’s, has been in Afghanistan since April, serving in the Marines. But he didn’t want that to stop him from watching his sibling compete.
“We decided we would try to FaceTime him and bring the tournament to him in Afghanistan,” Marylou Russ said before the event began on Saturday morning. “We knew he would love to see his brother do really well.”
The St. Anthony’s junior delivered, beginning with a 13-3 major decision and a 18-2 technical fall in his opening two bouts before winning 9-3 in the semifinals over Shoreham Wading River’s Jack Taddeo, the eventual third place finisher. In the title bout, he edged Ascend’s Simon Greebel, to earn a 4-3 triumph and the top spot on the podium.
Russ hopes his performance will give him momentum going into the high school season. He took second in the CHSAAs a year ago at 113 pounds, losing to Patrick Skinner of Kellenberg, the eventual bronze medalist at states. He completed his sophomore campaign with an 18-9 record and, according to Marylou, is looking to win a Catholic League title and make the medal stand at the state championships in 2012-13.
Performances like that would fit right into the Russ family. Before joining the military, Stephen Russ made a habit of getting his hand raised for the Friars, capturing three CHSAA crowns while compiling a 132-15 record. He was a three-time All-State performer, grabbing sixth, fourth and third at the state tournament.
And the sport still holds significance for him.
“Stephen definitely misses wrestling,” Marylou Russ. “He misses working out with his brother.”
While it wasn’t possible for the brothers to train together on the first weekend in August, the Russ family got perhaps the next best thing.
“We got to FaceTime Stephen from the tournament,” Marylou Russ said. “And he looked great.” He also got to be involved in Long Island wrestling and his brother’s title from the other side of the globe.