Inclement weather didn’t do Honesdale’s wrestling team any favors last week but it was still up to the challenge. Forced to wrestle three tri-matches in three days, the Hornets managed to win all six of their matches to claim the Lackawanna League Division II championship.
Troy Russell played a huge role in that by winning all six of his bouts, including four pins and a technical fall. That technical fall came in the last bout of Honesdale’s match with heated rival Western Wayne and lifted it to a 33-31 win to snap the Wildcats’ 52-match Lackawanna League winning streak. And on Friday, Russell came up with a pin again in the final bout to give his team a 40-39 comeback victory over Valley View.
Russell’s efforts earned him ATHLETE OF THE WEEK accolades and he sat down with staff writer Shane Hennigan to discuss his big week.
What was that celebration following the Western Wayne win like as a team? It was an amazing feeling. It was just awesome because we did it as a team. We’ve been doing it as a team this entire season and we’ve been having fun while doing it. We’re working hard in the wrestling room. It was just an awesome feeling for every single one of us to get to enjoy that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was awesome and something I’m going to remember forever.
The match was billed as the Wayne County Commissioners’ Battle for the Belt. The win allowed you to claim the series’ championship belt for the first time. How cool was it to finally get that? It’s awesome. After the match, I wore it around and put it around my waist and was walking around with it because I just felt on top of the world. It was awesome. It was such a good feeling because I’ve been with the team since I was a freshman and Western Wayne spanked us all three of those years. We did so bad and for revenge to finally be dealt by my hand, it was a good feeling. I just wanted to wear that belt and parade it around.
You had a quick turnaround and had another tri-meet against Elk Lake and Lackawanna Trail on Thursday. In your match against Lackawanna Trail, you came away with a hard-fought 5-4 win over Tyler Baltrusaitis. How much did you need a match like that? It’s good to get that because he’s probably the best kid on that team. He’s a really good wrestler. He’s probably going to get 100 wins this season so to get to run into someone of his caliber, it’s really good and it’s also a good feeling to know that I can hang with him and still get the job done in a match where we’re both pretty equal.
Friday’s match against Valley View was eerily similar to Western Wayne. You were down 17 points with three matches left and once again, it came down to you. Are you thinking the same thing as two nights earlier? Yes, the same thing right from the beginning when they weighed in (Valley View’s) Brandon Judge at 132 pounds. He’s one of their best kids and once we knew that he was going to be out of the way, coach knew that if it came down to it again, he’d want me in that same position. So we left it the same way, the same lineup and it came down to me again. But just like the other night, it was a team effort all around because those guys needed to get the job done to set me up to do that. That trio we have of me, Putzi and Lizza is something special.
The match lasted just 51 seconds. Can you describe the situation where you got the pin and the victory for your team? I just took him down and locked up a cradle. I knew that his only objective was going to be to stall. He was just going to try and not get pinned and as soon as I locked it up, I was just squeezing as hard as I could and I did not want to let go. I just kept squeezing and squeezing until I knew it was done.
You and your team went on to beat Scranton Prep and win the championship that night. After the brutal week you guys had, what was the feeling like to know you were finally league champs? Hard work wins. It’s so special what we’ve done but we deserve it. We’ve put everything we had into it. We put everything we had into those Wednesday matches and then to go the next day against two more teams and the day after that against two more, it’s a tough call but we all answered it. I just think it was a great week but now it’s on to winning that district title. That’s the next mission.
You led right into the next question. You’ll have a home match for the start of the District 2 Class 2A duals tournament Wednesday. How exciting will it be to compete in that atmosphere knowing that you have a legitimate chance to win? It’s awesome. No Honesdale team has ever won a district title. We feel and I also have no doubt that we have a legitimate chance to go to states. It would be awesome to go down there to Hershey and wrestle in front of 6,000 people. Just the experience would be awesome. So I’m very excited for this week as I was last week. Can’t wait to see what we do next.
What was the biggest difference for the team this year compared to your previous three years? I’ve been there since I was a freshman and we never really had too many star wrestlers. Even this year, we really don’t. I felt we were very young last season, but I knew that coming into this year, all the work that we put in during the summer and those guys that were young were going to have breakout years. I felt like we were going to do a lot of winning but once again, I never expected this. It’s just an awesome feeling to see how far we’ve come.
What are your post-graduation plans? I’d like to go to school and focus on early education or becoming a gym teacher. I’d like to go to Shippensburg University and I also want to continue wrestling.