Following Russ’s wishes, there will be no public memorial. He felt truly honored since his retirement by the numerous past tributes by his community, his peers, and especially, his former wrestlers.
Russ was born on Dec. 24, 1937, in Peoria, Ariz. to Ben and Donnie (Creach) Thurman. He was a two-sport athlete in Coquille High School, participating in basketball and track. He then took his track skills to Linfield College as a hurdler and pole vaulter, but discovered wrestling his sophomore year. He excelled in wrestling, placing fourth in the Pacific Coast League championships his senior year.
After a two-year stint in the Army, his love of wrestling resumed as he obtained his first teaching and coaching position at Philomath High School. After two years at Philomath, Russ moved east to Prineville to become the wrestling coach of the Crook County Cowboys. His beloved Cowboys won 20 district championships and 17 dual meet championships, while accruing a 60 dual-meet winning streak. The Cowboys amassed seven undefeated seasons under Coach Thurman, winning two state championships in 1969 and 1975. His teams also finished second and third twice at the state championships, along with a dual-meet state championship in 1992. The Thurman era finished with a dual-meet record of 500 wins and 47 losses. Russ was voted by his peers Coach of the Year on three separate occasions, and was nominated for National Coach of the Year in 1977. In 1996, Russ was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla. Russ Thurman’s Cowboys will always be revered for their strong dual-meet teams, fundamentals and tenacity.
Russ is survived by his wife, Mary; sons, Matt, Lance, Brian, and Brent; grandchildren, Mason, Mattison, Briley, and Quincey; brothers, Jess (Colleen) and Benny (Kate).
In memory of Russ Thurman, the family requests that donations be made to Crook County Booster-Wrestling Program, C/O Home Federal Bank, 555 N.W. 3RD St. Prineville, OR 97754.
Whispering Pines Funeral Home is assisting the family with the arrangements.