January 30, 2008

Koll Believes Honesty Is Best Policy

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Every great man in history has his special sayings, those unique, quirky personal expressions that make people listening shake their heads with confusion in that “we’ll let that go because it’s just the way he is,” way. Wrestling head coach Rob Koll is no different than other such ism-worthy legends — think of him as the slightly younger and definitely less crotchety Yogi Berra of the NCAA wrestling world.
Infamous as his comments may be, Koll’s quotes have brightened the day of more than one hapless sports reporter over the years. Nothing quite makes an otherwise dull match recap like a colorful Koll-ism.
“I think that I do tend to be brutally honest,” Koll said. “I have fun at the team’s expense, sometimes, but they give it back to me in triplicate in practice. I guess they get what they deserve.”
Current Sun Sports Editor Josh Perlin even mentioned Koll in his Feb. 15 column last year, Belated V-Day Remarks. Sandwiched between expressions of love for the 2006 football slogan “Ring that bell” and the so-called “Lynah silence” was Perlin’s ode to “Anything Rob Koll says.” [img_assist|nid=27043|title=Watch what you say|desc=Junior captain Jordan Leen has spent three years at Cornell both enjoying and debunking head coach Rob Koll’s “Koll-isms.”|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Every Thursday during the winter sports season, The Sun runs a wrestling story. And every Thursday, there’s one person whose quotes I look for first: wrestling head coach Rob Koll. Although I’ve never had the privilege of meeting one of the nation’s finest wrestling coaches, I get to read his quotes regularly. If you learn nothing else from this column, you should at least remember that reading wrestling articles can have significant entertainment value.”
High praise indeed.
Junior All-American Jordan Leen said he always takes his coach’s quotes with a grain of salt.
“You just can’t take [Koll] totally seriously, like ever!” he said.
Leen has collected quite a few Koll gems during his three-year Cornell career, but one of his favorite comments involved assistant coach Tyler Baier. Leen said Koll had an unusual explanation for Baier’s rather impressive weightlifting ability.
“It was the first Daily Sun article I ever got to read,” Leen said. Leen said that ultimately Koll credited Baier’s strength, in a very matter-of-fact anecdote, to his childhood growing up in the country where, according to Koll, he carried cows all around his family farm.
The next day Baier categorically disputed Koll’s bovine-inspired claim, responding that he had in fact never carried a cow — around a farm or otherwise — in his entire life.
Leen attributes Koll’s unique interviewing style to a desire for originality, a sentiment Leen can relate to himself.
“You do so many interviews,” Leen said, “And so many interviews sound the same. You just like to spice it up a little.”
Ultimately, while most of what Koll says is grounded in some fact, “I think he just makes a lot of stuff up,” Leen said.
Koll denied making anything up, especially words, something else Leen also claimed he does on occasion.
“[Leen] is from Tennessee,” Koll said. “He just doesn’t understand a lot of my vocab — anything over two syllables.”
In general, the wrestling team has gotten pretty used to a daily dose of Koll craziness when they open up the morning paper, Leen said. Every day before practice the team has a tradition to meet in order to tell a joke or a story. These team meetings often include a spirited discussion of their coach’s latest quotation.
Although usually the joking is all in good fun, Leen said that once in a while a teammate will be genuinely offended by one of his coach’s comments. For example, in a Fall article profiling freshman Mack Lewnes, Koll told the Sun that Lewnes was discovered during a trip meant to scout current junior Steve Anceravage.
“If it wasn’t for [Anceravage] getting whipped by Mack, then Mack might not be here today,” he said.
The next day at practice, Anceravage did not find that comment quite as funny as the rest of his team did.
“[Anceravage] was pissed,” Leen said. “But we all got a good laugh out of it.”
Koll admits that sometimes even he cringes when he sees the paper the next day. In one story, he remembered being quoted as referring to a tie as equivalent to kissing your sister. “At least she was hot,” Koll recalled telling the reporter jokingly. The next day, however, Koll woke up to find his email and voice mail full of angry messages from women around campus, one referred to him as an incestuous pig.
That day Koll learned an important lesson.
“I learned I have to be careful about what I say,” Koll said.
Koll’s gift of gab is not necessarily unique, Leen admitted, as the wrestling team in general is known for its own idiosyncratic behavior.
“I think we take some pride in the fact that we’re all pretty bizarre, unique individuals” he said, before describing fellow teammate Adam Frey, a sophomore, as “nuttier than squirrel s**t.”
Leen suggested that perhaps the spandex shorts and singlets wrestlers are required to wear during matches might be “warping [their] minds” a little.
“We think we look bad ass,” he added quickly.