Results 1 to 6 of 6

Thread: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

  1. #1

    Default Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1236...94703401.html#


    Ivy-League Cornell Takes On College Wrestling's Giants

    By DAN ACKMAN

    Arising from the east may be the most prodigious group of red wrestlers since the fall of the Soviet Union -- and the least likely. Cornell University, coming off its third straight victory in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association tournament held this past weekend in Philadelphia, has the second-ranked wrestling team in the nation. Rarely has an East Coast team been ranked so high; for the Ivy League, it is unprecedented.

    Cornell has had good wrestling teams before -- the team placed fourth in the NCAA tournament in 2005 -- but this year its wrestlers and coaches talk openly about challenging the mighty University of Iowa, winner of 20 team titles in the past 30 years, for the national title at the tournament in St. Louis starting on March 19. It could happen -- if everything breaks just right for the Big Red.

    Cornell's rise to the top wrestling ranks is part "Field of Dreams," part fund raising, and part the story of two unlikely champions. Head Coach Rob Koll, an NCAA champion and the son of a three-time NCAA champion, is wrestling royalty, but he has charted his own path.

    Though his dad had been the coach at Penn State, Mr. Koll opted to attend the University of North Carolina, a school never known for wrestling. After a career capped by an undefeated season and a stint as a graduate assistant, he was hired by Cornell as an assistant coach. Four years later, in 1993, Mr. Koll, who looks and sounds much like Coach Taylor on NBC's "Friday Night Lights," gained the head job at age 28.

    Soon after, wrestling alumni hatched plans for a new facility on campus. The idea of a building devoted to a single nonrevenue-generating sport -- even one fully funded by alums -- was "not a slam dunk," says Andy Noel, Cornell's athletic director and a former wrestling coach himself. But Cornell's president at the time was Hunter Rawlings, who had been president at Iowa. He backed the plan.

    The $6 million Friedman Wrestling Center, named for Stephen Friedman, a former wrestler who went on to become chairman of Goldman Sachs, opened in 2002. The building -- the only stand-alone wrestling facility in the country -- was the biggest step in raising the program to national prominence. "If you build it, they will come," Mr. Koll says. That same year, Travis Lee won his first of four EIWA titles for the Big Red.

    Mr. Lee, now a biotech researcher and volunteer assistant coach for the team, had been a high-school champion. But because that high school was in Hawaii, it didn't cut much ice with college coaches. Cornell was "one of the few places that took me seriously," Mr. Lee says, at least until he won a national tournament the summer after his senior year of high school. Recruiters then started calling, but Mr. Lee was committed to attending college in upstate New York. He wound up winning two NCAA crowns, becoming the first NCAA champ from Hawaii and the first Ivy Leaguer in more than 40 years to win twice.

    Mr. Lee was followed by Jordan Leen. Though Mr. Leen was a four-time state champion, he was also from one of the wrong states, Tennessee, and was likewise ignored by top wrestling colleges. Coach Koll, though, had known Mr. Leen's father, also a wrestling coach, since Jordan was a boy. The coach "told me I could be a national champion. Either he believed it or he was filling me up with a lot of hot air, but I believed him," Mr. Leen says. In 2008, Mr. Leen, then a junior, lost in the EIWA finals and was seeded eighth at the 157-pound weight class in the NCAA tournament. But he beat the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds en route to victory, making the coach not just credible but correct.

    As with all Ivy League teams, the recruiting pool is thinned considerably by the need for the prospects to meet academic standards. "Nine out of 10 kids we want we can't recruit," Mr. Koll says, "and the 10th kid can be recruited by everybody." He sells recruits on the level of competition -- Cornell wrestled Iowa and Iowa State in dual meets this year, beating Iowa State -- as well as on the networking opportunities that the university's wrestling alumni provide to graduates.

    In the past few years, recruiting has snowballed. Cornell attracted Troy Nickerson, a five-time state champion from New York, a wrestling hotbed; Mike Grey, a four-time champ from New Jersey; and Mack Lewnes, a four-time champion from Maryland. Both Mr. Lewnes and Mr. Nickerson are undefeated and won EIWA titles in Philadelphia this past weekend, as did Mr. Leen, who beat the No. 1 seed, J.P. O'Connor of Harvard.

    Mr. Lewnes's brother wrestled for Oklahoma State, a school that has won 34 NCAA titles. He was set on following his brother to Stillwater, but the Friedman Center turned his head. "To win an NCAA championship as an Ivy Leaguer would be amazing," he says. Can he do it this year as a sophomore? "Absolutely," says the 165-pounder, smiling.

    For the team to win is much less likely. Defending champ Iowa qualified wrestlers for the national tournament in nine of 10 weight classes. Cornell qualified just seven, a disappointment. But if Mr. Leen stages another upset, if Mr. Nickerson and Mr. Lewnes continue their undefeated ways, if a few teammates overachieve, and if Iowa falters just a bit, it's a real possibility.

    If Cornell succeeds, it would be the first Eastern squad to win the NCAA wrestling championship since Penn State in 1953. It would also be the first men's Ivy League team title in any sport since Princeton won lacrosse in 2001. "I can't predict we'll win," Mr. Leen says. "But we will put ourselves in a position to do something special."

    Mr. Ackman, based in Jersey City, N.J., writes about culture and sports for the Journal.

    <cite class="paperLocation">Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page D7</cite>

  2. #2

    Default Re: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    great article, thanks for posting!


    Quote Originally Posted by angelfish View Post
    Though his dad had been the coach at Penn State, Mr. Koll opted to attend the University of North Carolina, a school never known for wrestling.
    Still my favorite collegiate wrestler ever.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFR_vw1mi0w
    Super 32 Challenge - October 26-27, 2013

    "Good things happen when you wrestle for a full seven minutes." -- Jayson Ness, post-finals press conference

  3. #3

    Default Re: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    Congratulations to Cornell. They've been on a well deserved ride. From what I've heard of Coach Koll, you don't want to be on his bad side.
    See you in St. Louis!

  4. #4

    Default Re: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    I think Cornell is so cool, and they are among one of my favorite teams to watch. But I can't help but wonder if this success can be kept up. To have to find kids of a really high academic caliber, and still get great talent is something that I think is so hard to do. Sure an ivy league education is great, but how many kids want to put themselves under the rigor of those academics, plus the load of being a d1 wrestler in a successful program. What they're doing is good for wrestling, and I hope they can keep it up. I see them as being a team that has cycles of success, and off years, but always a few high quality wrestlers with individual national title shots.

  5. #5
    World Champ ODH's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    3,960

    Default Re: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    Quote Originally Posted by vaisforlovers View Post
    I think Cornell is so cool, and they are among one of my favorite teams to watch. But I can't help but wonder if this success can be kept up. To have to find kids of a really high academic caliber, and still get great talent is something that I think is so hard to do. Sure an ivy league education is great, but how many kids want to put themselves under the rigor of those academics, plus the load of being a d1 wrestler in a successful program. What they're doing is good for wrestling, and I hope they can keep it up. I see them as being a team that has cycles of success, and off years, but always a few high quality wrestlers with individual national title shots.
    Every team has cycles of success. Look at OK State and Minnesota this year.
    Lehigh was supposed to be able to change for a title a few years back.

    The limit of 9.9 scholarships per team and the fact that there is no money with a wrestling career helps the Ivies. They also drastically lower their admission standards for top athletes.

  6. #6
    Olympic Champ therick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    2,052

    Default Re: Wall Street Journal article re Cornell

    I agree ODH, their success in wrestling compares very well to what Princeton did in lacrosse. No doubt they can stay in the top tier.

    That facility is very impressive.

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •