November 16, 2001

Like Father Like Son

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Fifteen column inches isn’t enough space to tell you the full story behind wrestling head coach Rob Koll.

In truth, Koll has won a laundry list of awards longer than 15 inches. If you don’t believe that, check his bio on Cornell’s athletic Web site. They’re all there: 1990 and 1993 World Cup champion, 1992 Grand Prix champion, 1989 Pan Am Games champion and fifth at the World Championships in Tokyo. He was also the 1991 national freestyle champion and a 1992 U.S. Olympic alternate.

And yet, despite all that, he doesn’t even consider himself the best wrestler in his family.

“My dad [is the better wrestler],” Koll admits. “My dad never lost a college match, never had a point scored on him.”

Bill Koll was a three-time NCAA champion in college and was twice voted the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

But the younger Koll has an NCAA title of his own to put on the family mantle, an accomplishment he considers his greatest individual effort on the mat.

“Winning the [NCAA] individual championship was the biggest accomplishment for me not because of the actual championship, but because of all the setbacks on the way,” Koll says.

After gaining the title of All-American (given to the final eight wrestlers left at the NCAA championships) his first three years at North Carolina, Koll finally joined his father as a champion his senior year. To some, that would be a feeling of amazement . For Koll, it was simply a relief.

“When I finally won that national title, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders and I finally felt like I had become decent,” Koll says with a smile. “I went on to win the World Cup championship… [which] looks more impressive on paper, but winning [the NCAAs] was the most gratifying thing for me.

“My father always told me that a good wrestler was an All-American, a great wrestler was a national champion,” he said.

Koll left UNC with more than a championship, he left with a handful of records which might be impossible to touch. He still holds the all-time UNC and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) record for an individual at 150-20-1. He was three times an ACC champion and only UNC’s second NCAA champion. He would also go on to win the Patterson Medal in 1989 after that championship, given to the most outstanding senior athlete at North Carolina, a school that tends to be known for another winter sports team.

After spending some time trying to make a living out of wrestling following his graduation, he came to Cornell as an assistant coach, where Jack Spates took him under his wing and helped him become a college coach. Koll, a State College, Pa. native, has blossomed ever since.

Now in his ninth season at the helm of one of the true powerhouses of college wrestling, Koll has already accumulated well over 100 wins and a pair of Ivy League titles. Last season, his squad shared the Ivy crown with Harvard and Penn. This season, he plans to lead his Red to another Ivy title this year. And the next year. And the next year. And the next…

Archived article by Charles Persons