After finishing second in the NCAA tournament last year, winning five straight EWIA titles, and nine straight Ivy League championships, the Cornell Men’s Wrestling Team is red-hot. Coach Rob Koll could not be more excited to lead the team into the 2011 season. We took the opportunity to sit down with Coach Koll and ask him about the upcoming season.
Coming off a successful season, Koll plans to approach the season by building on the success of prior years. “What [they] really do is work two, three, four years prior to this year in order to have a successful year now. You don’t just wait until everyone graduates and say ‘let’s get to work’.” Last year’s success was years in the making. Koll added “we are going to be good this year, don’t expect us to drop off, we better not have a big drop off…the reason we brought [the new members of the team] here is because they’ve done extremely well in high school, and they all worked all summer long for the past couple summers. Yeah, we have some new faces in the line-up, but they are kids that are going to be immediately competitive.”
Freshman wrestlers do not generally start; with rare exceptions such as Kyle Dake ’13 who won an individual national title his freshman season. The team has five returning members, three of whom are All Americans. “Kyle Dake is an anomaly,” said Koll. “You don’t see many Kyle Dakes who step into the lineup and win a national championship. I think there’ve only been three or four in the history of the sport, it’s been 100 plus years.” Despite having five members of the team graduate last year, Koll is optimistic that the returning members will create a solid foundation for the team, which will only be strengthened by new additions. “Don’t expect us to drop off precipitously” said Koll. Coming into the season off two, second place finishes, and with a number four overall ranking, their goal is still to win a national title. As for individuals on the team, Coach Koll says that Kyle Dake, a standout on the team, will be great as a team member in bolstering their success, and also individually. “He is on track to be the first wrestler to win four national championships, and never actually red shirt” said Koll, who believes that Dake—who is now a junior—will continue to be a great resource for the team on the mat and off.
Coach Koll was also very enthusiastic about the addition of Mike Grey ’11 to the coaching staff. “I like to bring in our own if we can” said Koll, “it takes a little bit of time for someone outside of the Ivy League to understand the time commitment these kids have…it is a different world, so Mike has a different appreciation for the academic rigors of Cornell.” Koll expects success from his wrestlers both on the mat and in the classroom.
Koll says that their goals are to win the Ivy title, the Eastern Championship, and of course the national title. This year, the semifinals of the National Dual Meet Championships will be held in Ithaca, so getting to the National Championships (the Final Four) is a huge goal. “If everyone develops like we hope,” says Koll, “we want to be in contention for a national championship.” According to Koll, they are going to need more than a strong team. “[Success] is not always in our hands. We are going to need a little help, some people getting knocked off from the other teams…Penn State had help with us last year, so hopefully we can get some help with our trek to the national title.”
Although the team sells out Bartells, it is not filled with current Cornell students. ”If we can get a little help from the Cornell students, it would make my job a lot easier,” says Koll, “it will be hockey without the puck, and without the pads.”
Their first home match will be on November 18th versus The University of Minnesota at Newman Arena. The rest of the schedule can be found at http://cornellbigred.com/schedule.aspx?path=wrest&
For more information, check out our interview with Cam Simaz and Kyle Dake: http://www.slopemedia.org/television/cornell-sports-broadcasting/wrestling-season-preview-talking-with-the-team-2/