Woodburn's Whiteman, Newberg's Russo earn state honors
EUGENE -- Newberg High School wrestling coach Neil Russo and Woodburn High School girls soccer coach Andrea Whiteman each guided their respective programs to a state championship in the past athletic year. The pair brought home even more hardware on May 21, being named among the 53 high school coaches recognized at the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association's annual banquet at Autzen Stadium.
Each spring, the OACA names the top coaches in each classification. Russo and Whiteman were selected after helping their programs win state trophies the year after the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) cancelled all sanctioned state championship tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Russo, it was a banner year in what has already been a stellar career for the longtime coach of the Class 6A Tigers. In his 24 years coaching Newberg, Russo has led the wrestling program to seven runner-up trophies and four state championships, none of which were as dominant as the 2022 title the Tigers earned in February.
In winning the school's 13th wrestling title, Newberg amassed 418 points at this year's state tournament, more than any other school since the OSAA's first wrestling championship in 1948. The Tigers' 198.5-point margin of victory over second-place Sprague ranks second all-time in state history, behind 4A Crook County's 2014 title won by 246.5 points over runner-up Henley.
Newberg's title was the third consecutive for the Tigers, whose streak began in 2020 just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports around the state for the better part of a year. Last year's team took home the championship in a culmination tournament before the OSAA returned to host the event once again this past spring, where Newberg placed 11 wrestlers in the finals, six of whom went on to win individual titles.
Russo graduated from Newberg High School in 1987 and took over as head coach in 1999 from his uncle Tony Russo, who won seven state titles in 19 seasons. Russo's father, Pete Russo, won a state championship as head coach of the Tigers in 1970.
Across the Willamette River, Woodburn girls soccer head coach Andrea Whiteman likewise helped guide her team to a dominant season while adding another championship trophy to her resume.
Six months after competing in the truncated 2020 season, ironically held in March of 2021, the Bulldogs put together the best season in program history en route to winning the school's second consecutive OSAA title.
This 2021 Woodburn girls program was the first team in school history to go undefeated, sporting a 13-0-4 record, culminating in a 7-6 penalty kick victory over Hidden Valley in the 4A championship on Nov. 13.
Woodburn gave up just nine goals all season, including only one across four playoff games in November. The Bulldogs won their first state title in 2019 and remain the only girls athletic program to hang a state banner in the rafters at the Woodburn High School gymnasium.
For a full list of this year's OACA winners, go to oregoncoach.org/awards.
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