November 9, 2007

Leen Mentally Prepares for Campaign

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Junior wrestler Jordan Leen led the wrestling team in wins last year. He’s an All-American, a two-time NCAA Qualifier, an EIWA Champion and a two-time All-Ivy First Team honoree. But he doesn’t want to talk about all of that.
Leen started wrestling in third grade at the urging of his dad, a college wrestling coach himself. But he doesn’t want to talk about that either. Apparently, he feels his early wrestling years are too cliché to be interesting.
Jordan, consider yourself overruled. Leen said he has loved wrestling for as long as he can remember.
“I came out of the crib wrestling,” Leen said.
But Leen’s father made him wait until the third grade because he didn’t want his son to become burned out on the sport too soon. Leen’s father’s foresight paid off in the end.
“I guess I was really hungry to get started,” Leen said.
Leen experimented with other sports, but by the time he reached the eighth grade, he had decided that wrestling was going to be more than a passing fling; he was in it for the long haul.
“There’s just something about it, being just you,” Leen said. “As much as I love baseball, I was frustrated when I worked hard and we would still lose.”
Leen said that despite his success in high school, his hometown of Soddy Daisy, Tenn., wasn’t exactly a wrestling Mecca.
“It was terrible. Tennessee was really bad,” he said.
This made head coach Robert Koll’s recruitment and attention even more exciting. He believes in his athletes, and they elevate their level of play so as not to let him down.
But despite his success as an underclassmen, Leen has still not achieved his most important goals.
“Last year,” Leen said, “I had made sure that all my ducks were in line. I avoided injuries. I expected a result and I did not get it.”
What Leen learned from this was that sometimes, physical preparedness can only take you so far. Sometimes, it’s just as important, if not more so, to be mentally ready. Over the summer Leen had surgery on his right knee and tore a tendon on his left. This new experience of being unable to perform at the level he wanted to made Leen reevaluate the way he approaches training and competition.
“I’ve spent a lot of time [this summer] mentally preparing. And being deprived of the opportunities I had last year with a healthy body, I have somehow developed [a new], twisted mentality.”
Leen said that now, whenever he reaches that point during training when his body starts to break and buckle from fatigue, Leen is actually able to smile a little inside and enjoy the moment, because experiencing that pain emphasizes the fact that he’s healthy again.
While Leen’s new mindset is unconventional at times, he said that the team this year has big goals and the positive attitude to achieve them. Some of the younger guys on the team have really been helping turn around the team’s atmosphere.
“They love to scrap, they love to battle,” Leen said.
And as for where Leen envisions Cornell wrestling ending up this year? Top of the podium?
“Nothing short of it,” he said.