The college wrestling season is a long and grinding one, but over on Ithaca’s East Hill, the Cornell Big Red is getting ready for the final stretch run.
Cornell will have dual matches every weekend from now until mid-February in advance of the championship season. The Big Red got off to a 4-2 start in duals after they went 2-2 in the South Beach Duals, which saw the team head south to Florida for a week.
“To go down and see some sunshine was great for everyone,” said Lansing native and Cornell junior Will Koll. “But we didn’t compromise our training. We saw a lot of quality teams and had a lot of great matches, but then we had some time afterward to enjoy ourselves.”
The local boy has been working his way back into the starting lineup this winter for his father head coach Rob Koll’s squad. While Koll spent the entire 2016-17 wrestling at 141 pounds, he had to make a change this year.
One of the highest rated recruits in recent memory, Rochester native Yianni Diakomihalis, joined the Big Red this year and he immediately took over the 141-pound starting spot. Diakomihalis has even risen to be ranked at number one in the country at points this year, so Koll bumped up to 149 pounds.
“For me, moving up to 149 has been a bit of a challenge,” said Koll. “But to go up to that weight actually feels pretty natural and it was nice to get back and compete for my team.”
His first action on the season came down in the Sunshine State when he went 2-1 following victories over wrestlers from Minnesota and Kent State before he lost to then number 16 nationally ranked Grant Leeth of Missouri. Now, Koll is in a fight for the starting spot at 149 pounds with most notably Jonathan Furnas, who has held down the role for the past year or so.
“We have quite a few guys at 149 that are tough wrestlers and are motivated,” said Koll on the weight class battle. “No matter who ends up in the spot, I know that we’ll have a strong reliable wrestler and I have no worries going forward.”
One advantage that the Lansing native may have is the lack of weight cut he has to go through to make weight at 149. After he had to cut back to 141 last winter, he says that cutting down to 149 for matches feel much more natural.
“For me, to not cut as much weight just improves my strength and conditioning,” said Koll. “I may be a little undersized, but so far it hasn’t been much of a hindrance for me.”
Koll is hoping to be a starter on the squad when championship season rolls around in March, as the Big Red has a historic streak of titles that he’d like to contribute to once again. Cornell has now won 15 consecutive Ivy League championships, which is the longest streak of titles ever in league history. They also have claimed the last 11 EIWA titles, which is the longest streak ever in the conference.
“I think it’s been said for many years now that this year, whatever year it may be, will be the year that somebody will knock us off the pedestal,” said Koll on the EIWA streak. “But it hasn’t happened yet, and although people are saying it again this year, we’ll have to wait and see before anything like that happens. I expect history will repeat itself and we’ll stay at the top where we’ve been for the past 11 years.”
Koll and the Big Red will be in action at Friedman Wrestling Center in Ithaca on Saturday when they will host Brown and Harvard in a dual doubleheader.