Before heading off to Detroit to compete in the Division I NCAA wrestling nationals, senior Joey Hooker was pinned down by the Sun’s Paul Testa to answer a few questions. The session was stopped after Testa attempted a joke ruled potentially painful.
1. Your team just captured its first EIWA championship since 1993 and will be sending eight wrestlers, including yourself, to nationals. Do you think the team has talent to repeat last year’s top-5 performance?
Definitely, we could even do better. We could easily be top-3. Minnesota didn’t have a great tournament last year. They’ve been huge, as has Oklahoma State. We’ve come on strong in the last couple of years.
You’ve been here four years. Have you seen a transformation in the program?
It’s more of the same. If I had maybe been here two years before my freshman year it was a completely different program. We were trying to make top-10 versus top-5 or top-15 versus top-10 whereas now we’re kind of expected to be top-10 or top-5 every year. Year in and year out, we have the best recruits, the best kids coming in.
But it seems like it has to be tough to recruit against schools like Oklahoma State or Minnesota that don’t have the same academic standards and can offer kids scholarships.
It is, but in other sports like football, guys gravitate to big schools like Florida because there’s a pro career. Whereas wrestling, it is harder because there’s no pro career in wrestling. So you’re seeing a lot more kids going to good schools.
You’re saying there’s not good money to be had putting your hand in another man’s crotch?
[Laughing] No comment.
2. Would you describe the rest of the Ivy League as more of a cakewalk or a stroll in the park? Is it even a competition anymore?
The traditional teams are still strong, like all of the Big 12 and the Big 10. But then you’ve got teams like Northwestern who never used to be tough and they’re now a top-10 or top-5 team, and then you’ve got Penn, who’s always tough. Penn could easily be a top-10 or top-15 team this year. Columbia for the first time in their history has a top-25 team.
Is there more parity in the league then?
It’s still a big deal to win the Ivy League. You get your ring or your watch every year, but where before that was the big goal every year, before we had a shot to be top-5, now the goal is we want to be top of the EIWA and top of nationals. A national title is always the ultimate goal and the Ivy League is just something nice to win on the way.
What does it take to build a program?
A good coach. [Head coach] Rob Koll could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves. He’s good. He told me it wasn’t that cold here in the winter. He said the lake effect was like a bubble. I visited in October. It was about 55 degrees when I came and I wanted a winter jacket.
3. Have you ever scored a point on Koll in practice?
Yeah, I have.
Really? He says you’ve never scored a single point on any member of the coaching staff.
[Laughing] I mean maybe 10 years ago I wouldn’t have scored a point on Koll. I’ve scored a few in my day. I’ve had a few takedowns.
So you’re saying when you were 11, you couldn’t have taken Koll?
I mean when he was in his prime. He’s still pretty bad ass.
Are you saying he’s passed his prime?
He’s a little bit passed his prime. Even he would admit that.
You guys are actually wresting the coaching staff during practice?
That’s one thing where wrestling is a lot different than other teams. Other teams they may tell you what to do, whereas in the wrestling room you actually get in there and brawl with the coaches. You see fists flying and tempers flaring.
In most other sports, a coach would get suspended for that.
Yeah, Bobby Knight might throw a chair at his guy. In the wrestling room you might get the chair thrown back at you.
What is Koll like in the ring?
He gets out and he tries to throw you. He definitely tries to take the “umph” out of you. The first time I stepped on the mats with him, I got thrown on my head. It was actually on my recruiting trip. I mean you look at Rob Koll in his regular street close and you’re like, “This guy’s not much,” but he is vicious.
4. How do you feel after a loss?
It’s terrible. I hate losing. When I was a kid, I used to cry, and you still see guys who just ball after they lose a match.
Who are the crybabies on the team?
I’m not going to say any names, but I mean people get into it. People get emotional.
Just name some weight classes. You don’t have to say names.
I’m not going to do that. I can’t do that. You don’t really see it in college so much.
It’s more of the single tear.
Yeah, the single tear.
It’s [sophomore] Troy Nickerson isn’t it?
[Laughing] No. You don’t see Nickerson crying that much, he doesn’t lose very often.
I’m going to get my ass kicked.
5. We’ve talked about the team being “in the hunt” for a national title which just happens to be the title on a promotional poster with you guys standing shirtless with camo pants on in the woods behind a photoshopped version of 2007 national championship trophy. Who’s idea was all this?
I don’t know whose slogan it was. If you look at [junior] Steve Anceravage’s Facebook photo, we actually originally had shotguns on our shoulders, but I guess Athletics Communication didn’t like that so much.
I like the initiative, but I feel like the end result was a cross between Field and Stream and Playgirl.
[Laughing] I don’t know about Playgirl. We’re just trying to look badass.
Why stop with just a poster? Why not do a whole calendar and go Greco-Roman style?
I don’t know if the communications department would like that either.
I think those posters would be flying off the stand like hot cakes, or maybe hot beefcakes.
6. I don’t know how to bring this up gently, but have you gained weight?
[Offended] Have I gained weight?
Since you came to Cornell you’ve moved up two weight classes from 157 to 174. Are you more happy with your body image now?
They way I like to look at it, is that I came in as a boy and now I’m a man.
How big of a difference does it make to wrestle at 174?
The way I look at it, is that the higher up you get in weight the more of a fight it becomes. When you look at the lightweights, like 125 through 149, you see a lot of quick moves and it’s very technical. It’s precision wrestling right there. As you get higher and higher in weight you see more guys just brawling and getting into it. I’ve been in both areas. I started out small and I was 152 as a senior in high school and you see guys that are lot faster and lot more technical and then you get up higher and it’s a lot more like a fight.
For the segment of our readership that knows the Greek alphabet, what are your best weight loss tips?
There aren’t any good weight loss tips. It’s basically workout really hard and don’t eat. It’s good balance between malnutrition and over-exertion.
Do you have a platter of cheeseburgers waiting for you as soon as the season’s over?
I don’t really cut a lot of weight, but you see guys blow up a lot after the season. But to maintain weight you’ve got to eat healthy. That’s the biggest thing that people don’t understand.
7. What’s the best cure for cauliflower ear?
There is no cure for Cauliflower ear.
It looks like there’s a little puffiness in your left ear.
I’ve got it. I got it in high school. What happens is the cartilage breaks in your ear. Have you ever had a stinger?
Is that a type of fish?
[Shakes head]No. Imagine like pain that runs through the entire length of your body. When you get cauliflower ear, it’s one of the most painful things. When someone touches your ear it’s so painful. My mom didn’t want me to have deformed ears so she made me go to a doctor right away and I got it lanced. I had to walk around with tape all over my head for a few days. The greatest is when people come up to you and don’t see it right away and give you a hug or hit you. That hurts.
What exactly can you do?
You get surgery and they re-sculpt the ears.
I feel like ears are meant to look weird.
I’m not going to get surgery, but if you see some of the ears out there you might want to get surgery.
8. Have you been a Hooker all your life?
I’ve been a Hooker all my life. You know maybe someday a lucky lady will also get to become a Hooker.
You could start a broth — I mean a family. When did your mom decide she wanted to be a Hooker?
I don’t know how she made that decision.
I’m one to talk, as I don’t have the most fortunate of last names. But with guys like senior Keith Dickey or yourself on the team, is it something that’s mentioned on the mat?
Not as much now. When I was kid, I used to get it a lot more. I still do from time to time. It’s real original.
I here that you have a new, more creative nickname on the team of “Cocker Spaniel.” How did this arise?
[Laughing.] It’s not Cocker Spaniel. I don’t know if this is appropriate.
You clearly haven’t read 10 Questions before.
The nickname is “Donk,” and, um, I’m not going to go into it.
Is like the Cleveland Indian’s Travis Hafner’s nickname of Pronk: Half project, half donkey?
I guess. I don’t know. It was a nickname given to me. It was in the locker room. There’re a lot of jokes that go around. I don’t know how to say it with out making us look, I don’t know ambiguous to the female public.
I think you’ve got some posters that will set them straight.
The posters will make it worse.
9. You’re on the wrestling team, so I assume this shouldn’t be hard: Can you get my 20-year-old girlfriend into Johnny O’s.
Can someone you know on the team get my girlfriend into Johnny O’s?
I don’t want to get anyone I know at Johnny O’s into trouble.
I’m sure Julie will be disappointed. Still why is it that every bouncer at Johnny O’s seems to be on the wrestling team?
A few years ago one of the guys on the team started working there and he just got ever body else in. We all know the head bartender there and we know the owner.
Is his name really Johnny O?
His name really is Johnny O.
10. What’s the hottest women’s varsity team at Cornell?
I’ve got to go with women’s track.
It’s been a bit of dry spell for them. They haven’t been picked in a while. Why track?
They’re all in good shape. They’re good looking girls and they’re the biggest team.
Are there any particular girls or events?
It’s all about the pole vaulters.
Any woman who can handle that big of a stick can clear my bar any day.
Paul Testa is a Sun senior writer. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday this semester unless Troy Nickerson decides to make Testa shed a single tear. Questions and comments may be sent to email@example.com