Graphic courtesy of Stanford University Athletics.
What a wild 11 days it has been for the Stanford Cardinal wrestling program.
Multiple prominent storylines from the NCAA Division I wrestling offseason have centered around the Cornell Big Red and Stanford Cardinal wrestling programs for various reasons.
First, it was the announcement that Gabe and Max Dean were leaving Ithaca in early April that sent shockwaves through the college wrestling because the Dean family has been tied at the hip with the Cornell wrestling program for the better part of the last decade.
Then, earlier this month, the Stanford admiration surprised us again regarding the fate of its wrestling program. The administration promptly reversed course and decided to reinstate the wrestling program, plus 10 other sports, all of which were expected to be dropped before next season.
Well, today, May 29, Cornell and Stanford are shaking the college wrestling to its core once again. In a genuinely unexpected head coaching move, Rob Koll, longtime head coach of the Cornell Big Red wrestling program, has been named the next head coach at Stanford.
Koll leaves for Palo Alto after being in charge of the Big Red a nearly three decades. Under Koll’s direction, the Big Red h as captured 20 Ivy League and 11 EIWA titles, crowned 16 NCAA champions, and achieved 71 All-Americans, 177 NCAA qualifiers, and 66 individual EIWA champions. In the first 63 seasons of the NCAA tournament, the Big Red program had 82 total NCAA qualifiers, 16 All-Americans, and five national champions. In nearly 90 years of Big Red wrestling before Koll, Cornell had 14 EIWA team titles and 96 EIWA champs.
The numerous aforementioned transfers and coaching changes represent an uncharacteristically tumultuous offseason for two otherwise storied and immensely successful programs.
It will be interesting to watch and see what other dominos may fall and the resulting ripple effect that could arise as both institutions adjust to the new era of wrestling leadership in both Palo Alto and Ithaca.
Here is the official press release courtesy of Stanford University Athletics.
STANFORD, Calif. – Rob Koll has been appointed the 31st head coach in Stanford wrestling history, as announced today by Jaquish & Kenniger Director of Athletics Bernard Muir.
Koll comes to The Farm after spending 28 seasons as the head coach at Cornell, where he turned the Big Red into one of the elite programs in college wrestling. Koll compiled a 317-101-5 record while in Ithaca, including a 125-9-1 mark in the Ivy League. Koll’s hiring is contingent on a pending background check.
“I am thrilled to welcome Coach Koll to Stanford,” said Muir. “His long track record of success speaks for itself, and I believe he can propel Cardinal wrestling to even greater heights.”
With Koll at the helm, Cornell won 20 Ivy League and 11 EIWA titles, crowned 16 NCAA champions and produced 71 All-Americans, 177 NCAA qualifiers and 66 individual EIWA champions.
“My wife, Rachel, and I are looking forward to this new adventure,” said Koll. “I want to thank Bernard and Jamie [Breslin] for the opportunity. Everything Stanford was asking for seemed to be right in my wheelhouse and I am looking forward to getting to work on The Farm.
“The hardest part of the decision was to leave Cornell after 32 years. I am so grateful to all the wonderful people I have worked with and was surrounded by. I can’t thank everyone enough – the guys in the room, my staff, the alumni, program supporters and fans.”
Cornell’s all-time wins leader, Koll has helped the Big Red crown at least one individual NCAA champion in 10 of the last 12 years (prior to 2020-21) and had a finalist every year during that span. Cornell twice finished as team runner-up at NCAAs and has eight top 5 finishes. Cornell and Iowa are the only school in the country to finish in the top 10 nationally every year since 2008 (Ivy League school did not participate in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
For 17 consecutive seasons, at least three Big Red wrestlers reached the All-America podium. Koll qualified at least one wrestler to the NCAA championships in each of the 27 seasons the team competed, including sending a school-record nine to the national tournament six times.
“Rob Koll is one of the great coach CEOs in our sport,” said Executive Director of USA Wrestling Rich Bender. “Coach Koll has built an incredible foundation for wrestling at Cornell University. Congratulations goes out to Stanford University and the entire wrestling family there as they move forward with one of our sport’s best.”
Prior to being named the head coach at Cornell, Koll spent four seasons as an assistant with the Big Red from 1989-93.
Koll graduated in 1989 from North Carolina with a degree in communications. He set the standard for excellence in Chapel Hill, winning a national title at 158 pounds in 1988. He finished his collegiate career as the winningest wrestler in school and ACC history with a 150-20-1 record. He was the Tar Heels’s first four-time All-American and second wrestler in program history to win a national championship.
Continuing his competitive career following graduation, Koll wrestled in the 1990 and 1993 World Cup, winning his weight class on both occasions. He also served as an alternate on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team. A 1992 World Cup Grand Prix champion, he finished fifth at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo and was the 1989 Pan Am Games champion. He won national freestyle titles in 1990 and 1991, and was the runner-up at the 1989 Olympic Festival in Oklahoma City.
Koll and his wife, Rachel, have two sons, William and Daniel, who both have wrestled for the Big Red.
Honors & Accomplishments
- NWCA National Coach of the Year (2005)
- Dan Gable National Coach of the Year (2005)
- EIWA Coach of the Year (2007, 2010, 2011, 2017)
- Ivy League Coach of the Year (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- New York State Coach of the Year (1995, 1999, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2012)
- Cornell and Ivy League’s all-time winningest wrestling coach (317-101-5)
- Most Ivy League dual meet wins in conference history (125-9-1)
- Longest conference winning streak in team sports history (92 matches)
By The Numbers
- 1 Hodge Award Winner
- 1 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Wrestler
- 9 EIWA Freshmen of the Year
- 11 EIWA Wrestlers of the Year
- 11 EIWA championships
- 12 New York State Intercollegiate Championships
- 13 Ivy League Rookies of the Year
- 15 top 10 NCAA team finishes
- 15 Ivy League Wrestlers of the Year
- 16 individual NCAA champions
- 20 Ivy League titles
- 23 individual NCAA finalists
- 66 individual EIWA champions
- 71 NCAA All-Americans
- 70 individual New York State Intercollegiate champions
- 113 first-team All-Ivy League selections
- 177 individual NCAA qualifiers