InterMat recently caught up with VonOhlen and talked to him about a variety of topics.
Cole VonOhlen is 21-2 this season and ranked fourth at 149 (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)You haven't competed due to injury since the Southern Scuffle in early January. What's the severity of your injury? When do you expect to be back on the mat competing?
VonOhlen: I just kind of tweaked my shoulder a little bit. In a week or a couple weeks I should be good to go for sure. I'm not too concerned about it. In previous years I've gotten a lot of matches in, so having less matches isn't a bad thing for me this year. I've wrestled enough to know where I'm at and what I'm capable of. Just making sure I'm ready for March is the big thing.
Is it tough having to sit and watch your teammates wrestle?
VonOhlen: It is and it isn't. Right now it's pretty awesome because even though I'm not out there they're still kicking butt. So it's pretty cool. It would have been nice to be back for the Oregon State match because we had a few guys out for that one. I think we could have had a lot better match against them if a few of us would have been back. Being out and still beating UNI was pretty cool.
You recently finished runner-up at the Southern Scuffle. You defeated a fellow Minnesota native Dylan Ness in the semifinals. What was the key to defeating Ness?
VonOhlen: I think it was just wrestling my match. Our styles kind of match up well for me to do well. He likes to roll around a little bit and I'm not afraid to scramble in there. Getting on top and bottom were good positions for me. Getting a takedown in the first period was big. I think being able to get on top is a bag factor me, so I just have to keep working on that in big matches.
You fell in the Southern Scuffle finals to Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver, the nation's top-ranked 149-pounder. What did you take away from that loss?
VonOhlen: Sometimes I have trouble with quick guys, so I just need to keep working on my defense and make sure I'm getting in on my own shots. I got in on a couple shots, but I just kind of stopped. I need to try to finish a little more. A takedown in that match would have changed things. So I'll just keep working and hopefully I'll get my rematch in March.
Last season you came into the NCAAs as the No. 3 seed and fell short of All-American honors. Is that something that still drives you? Or was it something you immediately put in the past?
VonOhlen: No, I definitely didn't immediately put that one in the past. It's still a driving factor. Every year I get closer and closer. So just finally making that last little push to get on the podium will be exciting in March.
How different is wrestling in the NCAA tournament compared to wrestling in a regular season event?
VonOhlen: It's a little different. It's different if you take it as different. If you try to have the mindset where it's just another tournament I think you'll be all right. Some guys can psyche themselves out if they haven't been in big tournaments before. Most guys that go to it have been in big tournaments. They've been in state tournaments, or national tournaments, or wrestled in Fargo. Hopefully most of the time it's not too big of a change, but some people can get themselves psyched out.
Cole VonOhlen defeated Derek Valenti of Virginia en route to finishing runner-up at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)Now that you're a senior has anything changed with your approach to the sport? Are you putting more pressure on yourself to accomplish your goals? Or less because it's your last season of college wrestling?
VonOhlen: The only thing that I can do is train as hard as I can and then wrestle as hard as I can. Whatever outcome happens I've got to try to be happy with. I'm just trying to give it everything I've got and hopefully walk away satisfied in the end.
Air Force is currently ranked 24th in the country. Where do you see this program going?
VonOhlen: We're definitely on the up. We've got a lot of tough guys coming in all the time, a lot of tough freshmen. Hopefully our practice room environment just keeping getting tougher and tougher and we keep working up the ladder. It's pretty exciting.
Has Air Force been everything you thought it would be coming out of high school?
VonOhlen: Coming out of high school I didn't really know what it would be. I hadn't been that involved in the military stuff before or anything, so it was just kind of a leap. It has far exceeded my expectations … just with all the opportunities, all the friends you meet, and all the chances you get while you're there. It's been a pretty awesome experience.
Your coaches Joel Sharratt and Sam Barber both have ties to your home state of Minnesota. Sharratt wrestled at Bloomington Kennedy and Barber coached at Augsburg. What's it like wrestling for them?
VonOhlen: It's just kind of a good continuation. I had a really good coach in high school, Randy Baker. He knows both of them well. They have kind of the same mentality, so it was an easy crossover for me and a continuation of the building I was doing in high school. It was good transition and kept me on the good path that I was on.
You're close to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. How has that benefitted you throughout your college wrestling career?
VonOhlen: A lot. Whenever there is a training camp or something I can just hop down there and I'm in the mix with the best guys in the country or the world. You're facing really tough guys all the time. It's helped me a lot. It's always good to get different competition, or tough competition, that will push you or make you realize a weakness that you didn't have before.
Have you decided if you want to continue wrestling competitively after you graduate from the Air Force?
VonOhlen: Yeah, I would like to. I'm looking at the options for the World Class Athlete Program. So I'll see what opportunities I can get with that. Hopefully that's a possibility. It would be pretty fun.
This story also appears in the Jan. 25 issue of The Guillotine. The Guillotine has been covering wrestling in Minnesota since 1971. Its mission is to report and promote wrestling at all levels -- from youth and high school wrestling to college and international level wrestling. Subscribe to The Guillotine.