What doesn’t Dan Russell do? The man is everywhere in Battle Ground — and the world.
Russell is a member of the USA National Wrestling Team coaching staff, as well as on his hometown Battle Ground wrestling team coaching staff. He’s been and still is a motivational speaker to hundreds of schools, colleges, businesses and church groups across the country, is part of production on a potential future TV show, two movies and a documentary, and has even written a book that holds a five-star rating on Amazon.
At the end of every week Russell takes the podium at Foursquare Church in Battle Ground and delivers a sermon as pastor.
Russell just might be the most interesting man in Battle Ground, and he prefers helping people. Everything he does, including the book and films, is for the purpose of assisting people’s tough navigations through life.
“Truth be told, I’m so far in over my head,” Russell tells anyone with a laugh on all his activities. “But of all the things I do, if something makes a difference to one person, then it’s all worth it.”
Russell’s motivational personality and accomplishments are mostly anchored in the sport of wrestling. In his 21-year career, he trained for between four to six hours daily and six days a week. He wanted to be the best.
In 1995 he won the Podubbny Tournament in Russia and was later named the unofficial champion of the world. Before that he was an Olympic alternate on the USA team, a four-time NCAA champion and four-time high school state champion.
“I love wrestling because it teaches you how to navigate the real world,” Russell said. “Wrestling reveals character, and then you gotta deal with it.”
Everything he’s learned and experienced through the sport he now endlessly pours into project after project. Over the last few years those have become more “entertainment” centered, the first of which was the publication of his book “Finish Strong: The Dan Russell Story” in 2015. The book follows his life story as a wrestler and struggles not just against his opponents in the ring, but to discover what makes a true champion. Its national success has brought him a fair amount of notoriety, including the interest of screenplay writers that made the classic sports movies of Hoosiers and Rudy. According to Russell they are in talks with him regarding a film adaptation of his book filled with personal stories as a wrestler.
Russell has also produced and starred in a pilot episode of a potential TV show, “Battle Ground: Tougher Than Hell,” in which he trains a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. Russell said this project is currently being shopped to possibly become an original series on Netflix.
Another film near completion Russell has been a part of is “Narrow Road,” set to release this coming March. He said the story revolves around a man who goes to Europe, gets tied up in the mob, winds up in prison and at some point becomes a Christian. Russell describes it as “Arnold Schwarzenegger meets Jesus,” and that there will be cool action in it such as car chase scenes. What he is especially proud of with “Narrow Road” is that it features actors all from Clark County with “hidden talent” and was filmed entirely in the area.
Another project just underway is a film project. It stems from a recent trip Russell took to the Sahara Desert in Algeria about a month ago. On the “mission trip” Russell stayed with the Sahrawi people in their homes as a guest and “ate a lot of camel.” He plans is to eventually make a docufilm about the Sahrawi people and their struggles after being chased into the desert 40 years ago during the Cold War. Russell calls the area a “breeding ground for ISIS.” The film could bring light to the situation, with hopes of the project improving conditions for the Sahrawi.
Russell has been to 45 countries, has spoken at various large events and met many notable people. A few weeks ago he met with U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.
Despite his brushes across the globe, at the end of the day, he said there is no place he’d rather be than in Battle Ground
“I have a lot more fun than I ought to,” Russell said. “But I absolutely love this town. It’s a great community. The thing I care about most is the people living next to you. The people here are people you just wanna do life with.”