Official release courtesy of Cornell Athletics.
ITHACA, N.Y. — The Cornell wrestling program has solidified its coaching staff under new head coach Mike Grey ’11 with the addition of former Big Red assistant Donnie Vinson as associate head coach and two-time NCAA champion Kellen Russell as an assistant.
Vinson most recently was on the staff at NC State from 2017-21 under his college coach at Binghamton, Pat Popolizio. The Wolfpack had a pair of top six NCAA team finishes, won four ACC team titles, had nine All-Americans, three individual NCAA finalists and crowned Michael Macchiavello national champion at 197 pounds in 2018. In four years, NC State posted a 52-6 dual meet record (18-2 in the ACC). Vinson also served as a coach with the Wolfpack Wrestling Club and was involved with the Wolfpack RTC. During his four seasons, NC State took fourth at the 2017 NCAA Championships
In his first stint on the Big Red coaching staff from 2014-17, Vinson was part of a staff that included three Division I head coaches (Grey, Rob Koll at Stanford and Damion Hahn of South Dakota State). During that three-year run, Vinson helped tutor three NCAA champions and two runners-up and 11 total All-Americans. Cornell qualified a school-record nine wrestlers for NCAA’s in his first two years and won New York State, Ivy League and EIWA titles each year Vinson was on the sidelines.
Vinson joined Cornell after one season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He helped develop a pair of NCAA qualifiers, including EIWA runner-up Cody Reed at 197 pounds, who later became just the second Bearcat wrestler in program history to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals. Binghamton had five place winners and tied for seventh in the school’s debut at the EIWA Championship.
Vinson is the career wins leader at Binghamton with a 132-27 record and was a two-time Colonial Athletic Association Wrestler of the Year. The 2012 All-American at 149 pounds was named the CAA Championship’s Most Outstanding Wrestler as a senior and claimed the athletic department’s Athlete of the Year award. He was also chosen to receive the John Bilos Alumni Award, given to the top senior male for outstanding career performances as a Bearcat. Vinson is one of just four wrestlers to defeat four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake ’12 during his collegiate career.
He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Binghamton (marketing in 2012; student affairs administration in 2014).
“I’m excited for the opportunity to be a part of the new Cornell era,” Vinson said. “I’m looking forward to continuing the extraordinary success at Cornell with a youthful and energetic coaching staff. When you add that to the chance to get closer to home and be in a family environment, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Mike told me of the plans he has, and I could not be more excited.”
Russell spent the last seven seasons on staff at Michigan, where he won a pair of NCAA titles during a three-time All-America career on the mat. In his time on the sidelines, the Wolverines have boasted 27 All-Americans and earned top 10 team finishes in each of their last five NCAA Championships, including a fourth-place finish in 2018 and fifth-place showings in 2019 and 2021. Russell’s teams were 65-27 in dual meets and 41-19 in Big Ten competition over his seven years.
Russell was a two-time NCAA 141-pound champion (2011, 2012). He became the sixth multiple-time champion in Michigan history with a 6-4 sudden-victory decision over Iowa’s Montell Marion at the 2012 NCAA tournament. He defeated Cal Poly’s Boris Novachkov, 3-2, in the 141-pound final the previous year to complete a perfect 38-0 junior campaign. Russell went 71-1 over his final two seasons and boasted a perfect 14-0 record in collegiate overtime matches. The four-time Big Ten champion became just the 11th to win titles each year in conference history and the first to do so in a Michigan singlet.
He was named the Co-Most Outstanding Wrestler of the Championships as a senior (2012) and Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008. Twice named Michigan’s Male Athlete of the Year (2011, 2012), Russell completed his collegiate career with a 134-12 record, tying for eighth place on Michigan’s all-time wins list. His career win percentage of .918 ranks second in program history. Off the mat, he twice earned Academic All-Big Ten and NWCA All-Academic honors. Russell graduated from Michigan in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
Since his graduation, Russell has enjoyed a successful freestyle career as a member of the Cliff Keen Wrestling Club. He captured the 66kg/145.5-pound title at the 2013 U.S. Open and claimed runner-up honors at the 2013 World Team Trials. Internationally, he has won medals at the Guelph Open (gold, 2013) and Cuba’s Cerro Pelado Tournament (bronze, 2014).
“I would like to thank Andy Noel and Mike Grey for offering me this opportunity to coach at Cornell University,” Russell said. “Cornell wrestling speaks for itself with its tradition of success on and off the mat. I am excited to get to work helping keep that tradition going and bringing more individual titles and team championship to Cornell.”