Russ Hellickson is a wrestling icon. His credentials are paralleled by a select few in the sport. Ohio State’s 13 year head coach has excelled as an athlete and instructor.Hellickson has led the Buckeyes to 191 victories in his tenure, the most in school history. He was 1991’s Big Ten coach of the year and runner-up as national coach of the year. In all, Hellickson has been a mentor in some facet for 28 years. After building the University of Wisconsin to a national powerhouse, he headed to OSU in 1986 with the same mission. Two years later, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 9 in the country.He ranks 1993 as one of the major highlights in his OSU career. That year he helped Kevin Randleman and Rex Holman both to national championships. “I’ve gotten more satisfaction out of being in the corner when individuals are national champions than I did in my own competition,” Hellickson said. “I feel better when I have the opportunity to associate with a person who has made the sacrifices to achieve the ultimate.”Hellickson has guided 16 wrestlers to NCAA championships, the most recent being Mitch Clark last season. Clark is currently an assistant coach for the Buckeyes and remembers how Hellickson’s wisdom aided in his success. “He knows that some guys need more guidance than others. He can see what makes each individual go and adjust his coaching to it,” Clark said. “His trust in my ability to evaluate if I needed rest or not before last year’s Big Ten and NCAA tournament was really appreciated. He knew I could get the job done and left matters in my own hands. This was a major reason why I eventually went on to win the national championship.”Both the younger and more experienced wrestlers on the team appreciate any wisdom he might give them as well. “He’s a great motivator. When coach Hellickson talks, you listen. Coach really stresses improving both confidence and conditioning,” senior Eric Wood said. “Coach has done it all. He put in all the time and hard work, and that is something which makes all of us work harder.”Freshmen phenom Keaton Anderson agrees with Wood. “Coach Hellickson has gotten me mentally tough and showed me how college wrestling is going to be…that it’s definitely a lot more physical than high school.” Hellickson’s career as a wrestler was perhaps even more impressive. He was the silver medalist in the 1976 Olympics and captain of the 1980 U.S. freestyle team. Hellickson was honored to compete for the country, but he didn’t let the pressure get to him. “Pressure only exists if you let it exist…it’s a very complicated issue. Most people put it on themselves, and I never did,” he said, “I didn’t think my obligation was to perform well for my country as much as I did for myself. It’s an obligation to achieve your own maximum potential. If you start thinking your competing for somebody else, you get yourself in trouble.” Hellickson has garnered 11 national freestyle wrestling championships. He was the United States Wrestling Federation’s Man of the Year in 1975 and its wrestler of the year in 1976.His highest honor came in 1989 when he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. “It was a great honor because you’re being recognized with peers and mentors who have made significant contributions in the sport of wrestling,” Hellickson said. “It gives you a little piece of mind and satisfaction in what you’ve done in your own career.”Hellickson is also an accomplished journalist. He has done either wrestling play-by-play or color commentary for the past five Olympic games. In fact, Hellickson just recently inked a deal with NBC to handle play-by-play duties for the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. “It’s a great experience to be around, because it’s the ultimate in our sport…to be an Olympic champion,” he said.Coach Hellickson and his wife Nancy have three children-Mary, Karen and Elizabeth. Elizabeth, 19, attends Ohio State and is a second year biology major. She is following in her father’s athletic footsteps as a member of the Buckeye’s crew team. She says growing up around such a determined and hard working man has helped her strive for excellence in life. “He puts a fire inside of you. No matter how difficult something is, he’ll tell me to work my hardest on accomplishing the task at hand,” she said, “Failure is not in his vocabulary.”When all is said and done, Hellickson would like to be remembered as a man who gave it his all both on and off the mat.”I’ve always tried to be fair and honest with people. I think overall, people believe that I’ve been out for their best interest and challenged them to make more of themselves by giving a little bit more of myself,” he said.
June 14, 2019