February 6, 2009

Wrestling Ratchets Up Intensity in Practice

Print More

Almost every team, no matter what the sport, will inevitably go through a series of peaks and valleys, sometimes emotional, sometimes physical, and sometimes both. The wresting team experienced what can only be described as a valley in its season over the past couple of weeks, following a mediocre performance three weeks ago against Eastern Michigan and then a 16-14 loss to Missouri two weeks ago. But following last weekend’s dominating 32-7 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga, it seems the Red may have left that valley for good.
This Sunday the team travels to Columbia or its 12 p.m. kick off to the Ivy season against the 1-2 Lions, and then will get right back on its bus and drive to Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y for a 5 p.m. contest against the 3-1 Pride.
“It think we’re on the upswing,” said senior captain Jordan Leen.
The Red, which has won a total of seven consecutive Ivy titles, hopes to dispatch the Lions as quickly and easily as possible. “Columbia is definitely a team we should handle,” said head coach Rob Koll. “It better not be a close match.”[img_assist|nid=34817|title=Start the count, already|desc=Senior captain Jordan Leen attempts to pin an opponent from Penn State during his team’s 24-10 win on Nov. 21, 2008. The team will compete at Columbia and Hofstra on Sunday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Despite the match being held in the Lion’s small University Gym, Koll said he expects a strong contingent of friends of the Cornell wrestling team as well as alumni to create a Cornell-friendly atmosphere at the away event. Koll said that among the spectators will probably also be Cornell recruits, adding a bit of an extra incentive for the team to put on a good show.
That said, wrestling two different teams in one afternoon is never an easy feat.
In the eyes of Leen, however, the doubleheader is simply another opportunity to improve in the run-up to the NCAAs at the culmination of the season.
“I don’t think it will necessarily be a challenge,” Leen said. “It’s just a way for our coaches to prepare us for the [demanding schedule] of the Nationals.”
Koll quickly affirmed his star’s assertion.
“I think [doubleheaders like Sunday’s] are good for the kids,” he said. “It toughens them up. We want to keep them wrestling in stressful situations.”
Leen said the team was finding other silver linings from the experience, in a sport that requires its athletes to prove they are at the appropriate weight for each day that they wrestle in a match.
“It will be a kind of breath of fresh air for a lot of the guys,” he said. “It will be nice to only have to make weight once, and get two matches out of it.”
The team has been preparing extra hard for the past couple of weeks, with the toughened training part of Koll’s response to his team’s less-than-stellar effort against Eastern Michigan and Missouri.
“I like to say we like to stay close to the pain,” Koll said. “You can be in very good shape, and not feel that sort of ungodly pain.”
Without experiencing this type of physical strain, Koll said, wrestlers may back off if and when they start to experience the feeling during a crucial match, something that is unacceptable in Koll’s eyes — both for the individual and for the team.
Koll stressed the importance of conditioning in the workouts he designs for the team, which can include running, biking and crawling on all fours as fast as it can across the Friedman Wrestling Center.
“The conditioning aspect of wrestling is just so important,” Koll said, “Probably more important than in any other sport.”
Of course, the team must be carefully balancing how hard they push themselves — or be pushed — without reaching the point of physical injury.
“You walk a fine line,” Koll said.
Sophomore All-American Mack Lewnes, who had previously watched his team from the bench due to an injury, will be back in the ring this weekend, however, Koll said, strengthening an already formidable Red lineup that, barring injury, appears primed and ready to go this Sunday.