Skip to main content


Click by click, online fandom aims for a Big Red wrestling title

Redman mascot at Cornell wrestling match

Redman, the Big Red men's wrestling team unofficial mascot, has become synonymous with Coach Bob Koll's program and has become a cult hero with a thriving online presence.

The race to the 2011 NCAA wrestling championship in Philadelphia has been paved with Facebook "likes." Click by click, coach Rob Koll's Big Red men's team has picked up momentum through its unique use of social media.

Koll, the David Dunlop '59 Head Coach of Wrestling and the 2010 national coach of the year, is by now something of an expert on the impact of social media. He embraced the World Wide Web early to promote his team, school and sport, and it has paid big dividends.

It all began simply enough, with Koll taking up a marketing professor's idea of ways to publicize the wrestling program's summer camps. Koll met with the marketing class and heard student after student talk about social media platforms as an alternate way of reaching the public.

Koll embraced the idea. A natural salesman, he took to the challenge much the same way he did in building the program.

Coach Bob Koll at Cornell wrestling match

Coach Bob Koll, left, during the Big Red men's wrestling match against Lehigh University Jan. 22.

Now, as Cornell chases its first national team title in program history, many are following the historic season in ways that didn't exist when Koll took over the program in 1993. In fact, few could have utilized them even five years ago. Now, thousands of fans follow each match using their smartphones.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. New media has helped make Koll, his team and Redman household names.


As Cornell wrestling turned its full attention to this new way of reaching youth, including potential future Big Red wrestlers, the first star was born with Cornell's unofficial mascot. Wearing a full red bodysuit, a Big Red wrestling singlet and aviator sunglasses, Redman has become synonymous with Koll's program. And what he does in a series of online videos makes him even larger than life. With impeccable timing and a style all his own, Redman is in many ways the comic foil for one of the nation's toughest sports, both mentally and physically. A fixture at home matches, Redman has become a cult hero, with nearly 1,000 fans of his own on Facebook.

Using a creative viral marketing campaign, a collection of short commercials featuring the Lycra-wearing wrestling superhero exploded on the Web. More than a dozen videos have already been launched with 10,000-plus views. Even more important has been the buzz Redman's videos have created.

Screenshot of Cornell wrestling fan page on Facebook

The fan page for Cornell Wrestling on Facebook.

"Every single recruit we spoke to last season knew about Redman," Koll says. "When recruits see a Redman video, they instantly connect it with Cornell, which is what we've set out to do."

The wrestling program's Facebook page recently surpassed 7,000 fans. The goal is to have at least 10,000 following Big Red wrestling by the time the NCAA championships roll around in March. With the national meet taking place in Philadelphia, and with the Big Red team currently ranked No. 2 in the country, the social media push has exploded.

But any program could push out a website or stick a Facebook page in the public eye. It is the length Cornell wrestling has gone to to promote its team and sport that resonates with fans: dozens of hours planning and shooting Redman commercials, and constant updates.

You don't get to 10,000 Facebook fans or 1,000 Twitter followers by resting on your laurels.

It's sort of the same way Cornell wrestling has climbed to the top of the national ladder. Hard work and attention to detail, just as in training, have paid off for the Big Red.

Of course, radio, television and newspapers still have their place. In fact, Koll spearheaded a charge to have local radio station WPIE-1160 AM broadcast its dual meets in 2010-11.

You also can listen to those contests online. Most find the broadcasts through links on the wrestling program's Facebook page. Each click is another step toward a national title.


Cornell Big Red Wrestling Facebook fan page

Cornell wrestling's YouTube channel

Redman's Facebook page

Cornelll wrestling's Twitter feed

Back to top