Mike Grey ’11 has been selected to replace longtime Cornell head wrestling coach Rob Koll as the next David Dunlop ’59 Head Coach of Wrestling.
Though Koll has left some big shoes to fill, Grey is ready and excited to make his own impact on the program.
“I’m really honored to be the new head coach,” Grey said. “I’m excited to hit the ground running and bring Cornell to new heights.”
In late May, Stanford University announced the hiring of Koll, who is leaving Cornell after 28 seasons at the helm, leading the Red to 20 Ivy League and 11 EIWA titles, earning him a place as the Cornell and Ivy League all-time wins leader with a 317-101-5 record.
As a standout wrestler and longtime coach for Cornell, Grey’s experience with the program has helped prepare him for the challenges his new role will bring.
“I’ve done everything as an undergraduate and I’ve served in every role as a coach here,” Grey said. “It’s given me the ability to put myself in these kids and coaches’ shoes.”
Grey joined the Cornell staff as a volunteer assistant in 2011, was promoted to assistant coach in 2013 and was later named associate head coach in 2019. He wrestled for Cornell from 2007-2011, earning two NCAA All-American honors, two EIWA championships and four first-team All-Ivy League selections for Cornell, posting a 117-30 career record and helping the Red to a program-best second-place finish at the 2010 and 2011 NCAA championships.
Under Grey’s leadership as a coach from 2011-2021, Cornell recorded a 111-27 dual meet record and a 44-1 record in Ivy League competition. During that time span, Grey helped train Cornell wrestlers to win NCAA titles, 31 EIWA titles, 31 total All-American and 41 first-team All-Ivy selections. He was especially influential in working with a number of Cornell lightweights, like NCAA champions Nahshon Garrett ’16 and rising senior Yianni Diakomihalis.
Grey credits his success as a coach to a philosophy oriented around mastering technique and a determination to compete.
“If you can mix technique and strategy with a desire to be great and a toughness and mentality of hard work out there, you’re going to achieve some great things,” Grey said. “That’s really what I look for, and that’s what I try to get my student athletes to do.”
At only 34 years old, Grey sees his age — on the younger side for a college wrestling head coach — as an advantage.
“People get excited when there’s change, and people get excited when there’s youth,” Grey said. “I’m excited to give this program a shot of my life with youthfulness, enthusiasm and a ton of hard work and dedication to the task at hand.”
After the Ivy League canceled winter sport competition the past academic year because of the virus, Grey is looking forward to resuming competition for his first season as head coach.
“I’m excited to get back to a sense of normalcy, get back to working out and having a structure,” Grey said, “to have a regular schedule for our guys to be training and chasing their goals week in and week out.”
But Grey isn’t concerned that the lack of live NCAA competition for his wrestlers over the past year will hinder his team’s prospects in the future. Since wrestling is an individual sport, Cornell’s wrestlers have been able to train and compete separate from the University.
“We had a unique situation where we had a lot of open cards and open events that a lot of our kids were able to wrestle in,” Grey said.
As competition resumes, the program will have a fresh start with an experienced presence. Grey’s 15 years of dedication to the Cornell wrestling program have culminated in a dream come true for the longtime coach.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to be the head coach,” Grey said. “I thought that if I stayed the course I’d be able to get this opportunity and that’s really what happened.”