Once in a lifetime: Cornell wrestling to face former coach


ITHACA, N.Y. (WETM) – It will be an emotional weekend for Cornell University wrestling.

For the first time since departing to be the new head coach at Stanford University this past year, Rob Koll will return and coach against the program he helped build into a national power. Koll and Stanford will square off at Cornell Saturday night at 6:30 pm on ESPN+

Koll’s former wrestler and longtime assistant, Mike Grey, will be in the opposite corner for his first match as The Big Red’s new head coach. It’s a once in a lifetime event on the campus of Cornell University at the newly renovated Freidman Wrestling Center, a place considered by many as one of the best training centers in the world.

Koll, who served as the head coach at Cornell since 1993, won a staggering 317 matches and secured 17 consecutive IVY League Championships. In all, The Big Red finished second in the country at the NCAA Tournament twice (2010 & 2011) and won 16 individual national championships under Koll’s leadership. Now, Mike Grey looks to not only carry on the tradition, but take it even further.

Come Saturday, Grey and Cornell wrestling fans alike will see the old guard transfer to the new one.

“My first match, him coming back, it just creates fireworks,” Grey said. “It creates some animosity, too, in the sense of for people coming back maybe some people didn’t love that Rob left, it creates a scene.”

Cornell is led by two-time NCAA Champion, junior Yianni Diakomihalis at 141 pounds, and lightweight All-American, Vito Arujau, who’s currently ranked third in the country. Also of note, Koll’s son, Dan, is a senior on the Cornell squad. Dan was a state champion in 2017 at Lansing High School.

Stanford is back to full capacity after the school temporarily announced it dropped the sport only to be brought back after alumni and the wrestling community fought to keep it. That fight was especially helped national champion Shane Griffith at 165 pounds who took home his title last season. Griffith is also coming into Cornell as the reigning PAC-12 Wrestler of The Week after notching a win in his match versus Oklahoma State.

Grey’s advice to his guys has been to simply live in the moment, take it all in, and execute.

“Enjoy the moment it’s going to be a unique environment,” added Grey. “People are going to be fired up. It’s going to be a sold out packed house. It’s going to be a fun wrestling match, for sure.”

As for how much he wants to win, Grey says the respect factor will always be there for Koll but when the first whistle blows Saturday, it’s all Cornell for him-even in good fun.

“Ultimately, he wishes me well and I wish him well absolutely, we still have a great relationship. I want to the drop the hammer on him. I think he wants to do the same, right?

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