Just about two weeks ago, news leaked out of North Carolina that Coleman Scott was stepping down as head coach of the Tar Heel wrestling program. It wasn’t the best-kept secret in the world that Scott would likely end up at his alma mater Oklahoma State as an assistant coach. The second half of that situation came to fruition on Monday as OSU announced Scott’s hiring.
Now, the dominos have fallen and UNC has found Scott’s successor. It’s a familiar face for longtime Tar Heel fans in 1988 national champion Rob Koll. Koll has spent the past two years as the head coach at Stanford University. Additionally, Koll established his reputation as a program builder at Cornell, where he led the Big Red into a consistent national contender, despite competing in the Ivy League.
During his time at Stanford, Koll saw a pair of wrestlers combine for three All-American finishes in Palo Alto. In year one, Koll’s Stanford team finished 22nd in the nation and saw Shane Griffith make the national finals.
The Cardinal also blossomed on the recruiting trail with Koll’s leadership. Under his direction, Stanford has finished in the top eight of InterMat’s recruiting rankings (2023 - 8th; 2022 - 5th). Currently, eight top-100 prospects from the Class of 2024 have verballed to the Cardinal.
Koll’s 28-year tenure at Cornell featured 11 EIWA championships and 16 NCAA champions. His Cornell teams finished in the top ten at nationals 15 times including runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2012.
Not only did Koll’s team’s have success at Cornell against collegiate competition, but also on the international front. Prized pupil Kyle Dake has won four world titles and an Olympic bronze. More Koll recruits Yianni Diakomihalis and Vito Arujau have shined internationally. Diakomihalis captured a silver medal at world’s in 2022 and Arujau has a spot on the 2023 team.
During the long history of DI wrestling, only five wrestlers have been able to capture four NCAA titles. Two of them wrestled at Cornell under Koll; Dake and Diakomihalis.
As a competitor at North Carolina, Koll earned All-American honors four times (1,3,3,8) and was a part of two top-ten finishes at nationals. He would win three ACC titles and was named on the conference’s 50th anniversary team. When he left Chapel Hill, in 1988, Koll was the school leader in career (155) and season (47) wins. Those two records still hold up, to this day.
Koll inherits a UNC program that has finished in the top 20 at each of the last five NCAA tournaments. The 2023 team was led to a 12th-place finish by two-time national champion Austin O’Connor. The team’s other two All-Americans from 2023 (Lachlan McNeil and Gavin Kane) and will be prominently featured in InterMat’s upcoming preseason rankings.
At this time, it is expected that interim head coach Tony Ramos will stay in North Carolina to assist with Koll’s transition.
Now, we'll turn our attention to the Stanford program and who ends up replacing Koll in Palo Alto.