Rusch an ideal leader for young North wrestling team

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By Brad Stephens

Earlier this month 14 North Oldham wrestlers competed in the Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association state team duals. Out of those 14, senior Mitch Rusch was the only wrestler above the sophomore level.

That’s become the norm for Rusch this year. The North veteran is the undisputed team leader, conducting pre-practice warm-ups, offering advice to teammates when they’re on the mat and dominating his competition.

“I’m hoping we show these younger kids that they have a lot of potential on the team and in the sport,” Rusch said. “So they’ll push themselves harder and take everything serious in what they do to it.”

The Mustangs will be competing this weekend at the KHSAA Region 5 meet at Western Hills High School in Frankfort. Wrestling begins at 9:30 a.m. with finals taking place at 6 p.m. Oldham County and South Oldham will be competing at the meet as well.

Rusch, ranked No. 4 statewide in the 160-pound class according to kentuckywrestling.com, will be one of the favorites to advance to the state tournament Feb. 22 and contend for a title there. He’s lost three matches this season, being pinned just once.

Coach Tony Zeppa has known Rusch since he started coming around to his older brothers’ matches as an elementary school aged kid. Zeppa has seen Rusch grow and has the utmost confidence in his senior’s chances of winning a state title, he said.

“Mitch should be at the top of the podium,” Zeppa said. “There’s no reason Mitch shouldn’t be at the very top.”

One of the reasons for his success, Rusch said, has been the presence of his older brother, Chase.

Chase Rusch wrestled for North before graduating in 2012. He wrestled last season at Lindsey Wilson before deciding to move back and work as an assistant coach for Mitch’s senior year. He’ll join the Air Force later this year.

“With Chase coming up, it gave me a lot more confidence in practice,” Mitch said. “I have someone there every day pushing to make me better than what I am now and to make me improve from where I’ve been.”

The work has paid off, Chase said.

“He’s wrestling a lot smarter, a lot more aggressive,” Chase Rusch said. “We started lifting in the summer and he’s definitely gotten stronger, so that’s a big improvement being at a weight class, 160, where kids get pretty beefy.

“I’m excited to see how the rest of his season goes.”

Mitch has options for his future after this season. He could go to college and wrestle or he could go into the military like much of the rest of his family.

Mitch expressed interest in joining the Air Force, like his brother Chase, and becoming a helicopter pilot.

“It’s a huge choice for me to make right now,” Rusch said. “I’m trying to look into them both.”

But Mitch still has hopefully two weeks left of high school wrestling. He’s aiming for a 160-pound state championship and for setting a high standard for the younger guys on North’s team that look up to him.

“I’m shooting to go into the (state) finals,” Mitch said. “It’d be a huge achievement for me because I’d be the first wrestler for North Oldham to be in the state finals.”