Oct. 29, 2012
By Ryan Evans
MADISON, Wis. – During his young wrestling career, all Badger freshman TJ Ruschell has known is having a family member as his coach. So, you could say that having his older brother, Kyle Ruschell, as one of his coaches at Wisconsin is a natural fit for him.
Prior to coming to Madison by way of Crittenden, Ky., TJ was coached by the eldest Ruschell brother, Keith, in middle school, and his father, Tim, in high school. He’s certainly used to it, but TJ said that he likes having family members for coaches, in part because they know him better than anyone else, but now that he’s in Madison with Kyle, it has other benefits as well.
“Coming from far away it’s nice to have someone here that’s a part of my family so I don’t get homesick,” TJ said. “It’s like I’m basically home all the time because I see him every day.”
Kyle describes the chance to help coach his little brother as a “great opportunity,” but just because TJ is family, doesn’t mean he gets it any easier in the wrestling room. Kyle said that as a coach, he has a different switch that turns on when he enters the wrestling room, and once that happens he can’t, and doesn’t, think of TJ as a brother anymore, at that point he’s just another one of the guys.
“If he has a question I’m going to answer it and if he wants to wrestle me I’m going to wrestle him, and I’m not going to take it easy on him,” Kyle said.
“Actually, I might even go a little harder on him,” he added, laughing.
Kyle said the he tried to stay out of TJ’s college decision as much as possible because he wanted TJ to make his own decision, for his own life, without feeling pressured by the big brother he looks up to, but added that he “kind of always knew he was coming here.”
“He did have plenty of Wisconsin apparel and Wisconsin posters up in his room,” Kyle said.
Coming to a program where your older brother was a two-time All-American might cast too long of a shadow for some people, but for TJ – who says he hopes to be a four-time All-American and a national champion – trying to follow in his brother’s footsteps is pretty much the norm.
“It was the same way in high school,” TJ said. “He was a two-time state champ and everyone in Kentucky knew who he was.”
TJ isn’t worried about the expectations that might come from his last name, because he is his own wrestler, albeit with a style of wrestling that is self-described as being similar to his brother’s. But that is just part of what makes the situation at Wisconsin a great fit.
“He’s just a lot better,” TJ said, laughing, comparing himself to Kyle. “But because we are so similar, that’s one reason that he’s a great coach for me.”
There is no doubt in TJ’s mind that he made the right decision in coming to Madison. He fell in love with campus on his first visit and now, not only does he get the chance to wrestle and work with his older brother, he’s fulfilling a lifelong dream to don the ‘W’ crested Cardinal singlet.
“There is just something about it,” TJ said of the ‘W’. “It’s something I’ve literally dreamt about since sixth grade, and knowing that I get to wear that ‘W’ on my singlet, on my chest, that’s pretty awesome.”