Nothing hurts a sports team more than a bunch of injuries occurring on the same day. It can be crippling — literally. The Red experienced this unfortunate phenomenon first hand over the Winter Break at the Southern Scuffle, when three wrestlers were hurt — including All-American junior Jordan Leen — all within an hour of one another. This Sunday, Cornell will be on the opposite coast as they take on Missouri at the state-of-the-art Hearnes Center in Columbia. It will be the first match for the Red at close to full strength again, as head coach Rob Koll expects to have an active roster and a larger squad available.
“We have a better team than we had at the duals,” Koll said.
Missouri is currently ranked No. 11 in the nation, following a 16-16 tie against No. 2 Oklahoma State in a dual match last Saturday. The Tigers are 6-2-1 this season following a 2-0 start. At the National duals meet on Jan. 11, Missouri beat Indiana before losing in the second round to Iowa. Cornell lost its first round match to Iowa, but then responded with a win over Indiana in the consolation bracket.
Koll said that despite his team’s relatively slow start this season, he expects everyone to be ready and at peak fitness level by the first Ivy match, a home competition against Columbia on Feb. 9.
“I think we have a really good team,” Koll said. “I absolutely expect them to do well [against Missouri], individually and as a team. Of course, we will have to wrestle really well to beat them.”
No. 19 Cornell is 1-4 so far in team dual matches, with a 1-3 home record and 0-1 record on the road. This weekend’s match will be a chance for the team to break its winter losing streak, currently standing at two matches, while also getting in some last minute competition before taking on its rivals in the Ivy League early next month.
Koll also admitted he wanted to win the Missouri match for reasons a little closer to home. The wrestling coach at Missouri used to serve under him as an assistant at Cornell, making this matchup a personal point of pride for Koll. As it turns out, Missouri isn’t the only team that has coaches who have benefited from Kohl’s tutelage in the past.
“I am a wrestling coach breeder, that’s what I am,” Koll said.
Last year, Cornell finished the season with a 12th place finish at the NCAA championship; a finish deemed something of a disappointment because of Cornell’s widely acknowledged talent. At the start of this year the Red was picked No. 4 in the W.I.N. Magazine’s Division I rankings.
So far, the team has seen good results from both upper and lower classmen, with the freshmen and sophomores in particular receiving a lot of attention lately.
Both freshmen Mike Grey and Mack Lewnes (wrestling in the 133 and 165 pound classes, respectively) performed well at the National duals against opponents from top-ranked Iowa and Penn State. Grey was a perfect 3-for-3 on the day.
But Koll was quick to give credit to his juniors and seniors as well, which have continued to give consistently strong performances this season.
“We’ve got some great upperclassmen,” Koll said, referencing juniors Jordan Leen and Steven Anceravage as well as senior Zach Hammond in particular as team leaders he expects to step up this weekend.