Itâ€™s not always easy being the head coach of the wrestling team. Rob Koll has shepherded, prodded, cajoled and guided his squad to seven straight (and nine total) Ivy titles, dozens of Invitational victories and the team is currently ranked No. 2 in the country. But wrestling is often left behind in terms of television and radio coverage, as compared to more â€œmarqueeâ€ sports such as menâ€™s ice hockey and basketball. But not this Sunday.
This Sunday, the Red (6-2), hosting No.12 Missouri, will be featured live on the Time Warner Cable network, as well as FOX College Sports and Direct TV. In addition, for every student that attends the free match at the Newman Arena, $4 will be donated to the Hospice Center of Ithaca.
Koll said that the team has worked very hard to receive more coverage from the mainstream media, including television networks like Time Warner. No matter how impressive the team or exciting the matchup, ultimately, it often boils down to who you know.
â€œYou work like crazy to get season ticket holders who are also wrestling fans, who are also [executives] at Time Warner,â€ Koll said.
This is not to say that there isnâ€™t a rich fan base for this type of specialty coverage.
â€œThe Cornell wrestling program is a real powerhouse,â€ said Time Warner Cable Sports Director Doug Logan, according to cornellbigred.com. â€œWe are thrilled to combine forces with FOX College Sports to showcase the Big Red to all our Central New York subscribers and to fans of national championship caliber wrestling nationwide.â€
Koll said that while perhaps smaller than the fan bases of other college sports, wrestling fans are extremely loyal.
â€œThereâ€™s a market for wrestling [on television,â€ he said. â€œ[The fans] are so loyal to the sport. Realistically, youâ€™re not going to get [this type of coverage] anywhere else.â€
Koll said he hoped the increased publicity would translate into more fans in the community, as well as nationally. However, Koll said that there is always room for improvement, as far as Cornellâ€™s student fan base is concerned.
â€œAnytime you have two of the top teams wrestling at Cornell, youâ€™d hope to get a good crowd,â€ he said. â€œUnfortunately, thatâ€™s not always the case.â€
The nationally ranked Tigers are expected to put up a strong fight against the Red, with many top Missouri wrestlers preparing to face off against Cornellâ€™s best.
â€œWe will have to really wrestle well,â€ Koll said. â€œItâ€™s going to be an exciting match.â€
In any dual match, the Redâ€™s power players â€” seniors Jordan Leen and Steve Anceravage, junior Troy Nickerson, sophomore Mack Lewnes â€” are, at least to some extent, expected to win their matches. But Sunday, the wrestlers who might not be favored to win must also come through for the team, Koll said.
This is not to say that Leen or Anceravage will have it easy, either. Anceravage, ranked fifth in the country at 174 pounds, will be paired off against the nationâ€™s sixth-ranked wrestler, Raymond Jordan from Missouri.
In what is becoming a common refrain, Koll will be facing off against an opposing head coach who used to sit on the Red sidelines himself. Missouri coach Brian Smith is a former Cornell assistant coach. Currently, Kollâ€™s former assistants hold head coaching jobs at Hofstra, Missouri, Virginia and Eastern Michigan.
Despite the friendly coaching rivalry, itâ€™s a given that Koll and the Red will be trying to capitalize on every advantage, including the long distance the Tigers will have to travel to get to Ithaca from their Midwest home.
â€œThey have to come a very long way,â€ Koll said. â€œHopefully, theyâ€™ll be tired.â€