Wrestling – Twin Brothers Mike and Matt Russo Reach the Top of the Region VI Medal Stand
Follow Bob Badders on Twitter for scores and news from around the Shore.
TOMS RIVER — For Mike and Matt Russo, the only thing stronger than their desire to become state champions is the bond they’ve shared since before they entered the world.
The standout twins have been a major part of Jackson Liberty’s growth as a program since the Lions started at the varsity level in 2008. Now seniors, the Russo brothers enjoyed their best moment as teammates when both captured individual championships at the NJSIAA Region VI Tournament on Saturday at Pine Belt Arena.
Mike Russo won his third Region VI title by defeating Toms River South freshman Cole Corrigan, 5-0, at 126 pounds. It was also the third straight region title for Mike Russo and the fourth time he’s been in a Region VI final. He ran his career record to 155-9, his wins total tied with Toms River South’s B.J. Clagon for second all-time in Shore Conference history.
“It’s awesome,” Mike Russo said. “I’ve been working so hard since I was little, so for it to pay off in the middle of the mat with everyone watching is an indescribable feeling.”
While Mike was focused on taking care of business, he was more excited to see Matt wrestle in his first region final. Mike has been dominant throughout his career, and so has Matt, albeit not on that level. This year, however, it was Matt who entered the postseason with an undefeated record. He kept the zero in the loss column by defeating Lacey’s Connor Garrity 4-1 to win his first region title.
“I couldn’t take Cole for granted at all because he’s very tough, but I was more excited for Matt,” Mike said. “It was his first time in the finals and the first time he’s won it, so it was awesome.”
The only thing that was different about this time was accomplishing a goal together. There have been brothers who have won Region VI titles in the same year. Southern’s Matt and Zach Wilhelm did it last season at 138 and 145 pounds. Wall’s Nick and Andy Roy did it at 152 and 171 in 2000. Central regional legends Mark and Maurice Worthy won at 112 and 152 in 1996 and again at 125 and 160 in 1997. Jackson Memorial’s Jermaine and Derex Johnson were champs at 142 and 172 in 1995. John and Bryan Stout won the 140- and 145-pound titles while wrestling for Lacey in 1990. Long Branch’s Skove brothers did it a few times, most notably in 1981 when Andrew (108), Luke (141) and Jude (148) all won titles.
For the Russo twins, who are actually part of triplets along with their sister, this was a dream come true.
“There’s no other feeling like it,” Matt said. “Me and Mike have been with each other since the womb. We have a special bond. We push each other in practice and feed off each other’s energy.”
Now they’re hoping to one-up Saturday’s accomplishments with a memorable run in the state tournament. Mike is a four-time state qualifier who finished fourth at 106 pounds as a sophomore and last season placed third at 120 pounds. Matt is a two-time state qualifier looking for his first medal in the state tournament.
“It’s been our goal for a while (to win region titles together) and we’re going to continue it into the state tournament,” Matt said.
“We’re both trying to make a run in state this year,” Mike said. “We’ll see what happens.”