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Discussion in 'The Mainboard' started by Gin Buckets, Jun 12, 2015.
Robb has had a loss coming for a while, hope he regains the edge for NCAAs
Think he should have gotten the 2 in the first. Tough luck. Haines the next special PSU guy
Robb was our best chance for a win in the finals. Now need either Labriola (lol @ beating Starocci) or Allred to pull an upset otherwise we're looking at 0-5
They took a good step in the semis but don’t quite have the elite level hammers yet
Well Ridge but yeah, this year they have a bunch of great, not outstanding wrestlers. Some promising underclassmen coming.
Holy shit....hell yes Allred! Just a sophomore. Budding star?!
Silas “Best Last Name” Allred!!
very nice win for Allred. Dean plays with fire too often not to get burnt but he really didn't seem to have much going in offense or scrambles to make you think this was a one-off.
Was cool to see the name Allred come up on my Fb feed this week. Grew up with Silas's dad...Hell of an athlete...went through a lot. I'd wager on Silas just getting better and better.
Selection Show at 8pm tonight. Anybody going to Tulsa? I’ll be there for the whole event.
I'm sure a bunch of old Hokies are going. Lots of my old college buddies go every year. Will be fun.
Skipping Tulsa. Will start going again when it’s not in shitty places.
I've been on a bit of a wrestling documentary binge lately, and this one is very good if you haven't seen it. It's on Curiosity Stream, or you can rent it from Amazon for like $2.
One thing that got me into it was seeing this article, about Chris Pratt doing a wrestling documentary.
So then I watched his MTV True Life on the Lake Stevens wrestling team, which was also pretty good.
I thought you and your cousin Stevis were going?
Not only are you mean to bucks fans, you are mean to cities. Wow!
I am always supportive and often say “congrats bucs”
How did Aaron Brooks not get the top seed let along top 2?
They dont count the all star classic and the reasoning would be the others had a better loss still ridiculous
Max Dean is only Nit I dislike but him being 9th is ridiculous
Thought that bracket was nuts
Allred is the 8. When the hell is the last time the B1G champ was that low ranked in a class. Crazy indeed
Here’s your reward for beating the defending national champ, get him in round 2 of nationals
Not sure how many of you guys have a sub to The Athletic, but there was an awesome article in there today about PSU hiring Cael.
How Penn State hired Cael Sanderson: Inside the origins of an NCAA wrestling dynasty
How Penn State hired Cael Sanderson: Inside the origins of an NCAA wrestling dynasty
Mar 15, 2023
Cael Sanderson tried to blend in as he arrived at the Holiday Inn conference center across the street from the airport in Des Moines, Iowa, in April 2009.
That’s not easy for one of the most distinguished and recognizable American wrestlers of all time. Wearing a trench coat with a ball cap pulled low, Sanderson knew the idea of him leaving Iowa State would stun the wrestling world.
Nobody outside his inner circle needed to know. Penn State’s five-person search committee, hoping to fly under the radar too, met him there, 40 miles from Iowa State’s campus. The committee arrived on a plane belonging to Nittany Lions wrestling alum, booster and trustee Ira Lubert, a member of the committee.
“We were highly sensitive and highly concerned that it would get out,” said Dr. Scott Kretchmar, Penn State’s faculty representative on the search committee. “When we met at the hotel, we made sure there was ultimate security so that hotel personnel wouldn’t happen into the room. Cael came in in a way that would make it difficult for anyone to recognize him.”
Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard knew his prized wrestling coach was taking the interview. So did Sanderson’s assistant coaches and confidants, Cody Sanderson, his brother, and Casey Cunningham. The assistants had known of Sanderson’s interest in the job since earlier that winter, when rumors of Penn State parting ways with coach Troy Sunderland intensified. Cael Sanderson, 29 years old at the time, even reached out to then-Penn State athletic director Tim Curley to express interest should the job open, he told The Athletic in an email.
“Cael wanted to be No. 1 in everything,” said Bobby Douglas, Sanderson’s coach at Iowa State and in the Olympics. Sanderson succeeded Douglas in Ames. “You’re not going to be No. 1 without going through Pennsylvania or having some kind of connection with Pennsylvania. … Everybody wanted Cael Sanderson. He was Mr. Wrestling.”
Sanderson capped his collegiate career with a perfect 159-0 record and four NCAA titles. His face was on Wheaties boxes. Young wrestlers dreamed of one day having Olympic gold hanging around their neck like Sanderson did in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
Sanderson became head coach of the Cyclones in 2006 and spoke of bringing an NCAA team title to his alma mater. Iowa State finished second, fifth and third at NCAAs during his time as head coach, qualifying a wrestler in every weight class for the championships during each of his three years — 30 in total. They were trending upward and had a commitment from the nation’s top recruit, David Taylor.
Many assumed — even some on Penn State’s search committee — that Sanderson would stay at Iowa State forever.
“Tim Curley asked me if I thought Cael Sanderson would be a good fit for Penn State, and one of the things I said was, ‘Would Mickey Mantle have been a good fit for the New York Yankees?’” Douglas said. “It doesn’t take a lot of brain power to see what the future could look like at Penn State if they got Cael Sanderson.”
What Penn State and Iowa State administrators couldn’t have fully grasped in 2009 was the seismic shift that would unfold in college wrestling. Before the hiring was announced, Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands stood in front of Hawkeyes supporters and cautioned that news was coming that would shake up the sport. He wouldn’t say what exactly, but wrestling’s blue bloods were on notice.
Powerhouse programs like Oklahoma State (34 championships), Iowa (24), Iowa State (eight) and Oklahoma (seven) would soon have company from the Nittany Lions, who have won nine NCAA championships under Sanderson and 10 overall. They’re favored to win another this weekend in Tulsa, with nine individuals qualifying — the 10th time since Sanderson’s arrival that Penn State has had nine or more wrestlers advance to NCAAs. In all, Sanderson’s Penn State wrestlers have captured 32 individual national championships entering the 2023 event.
“Our goal, my goal, is just to be in the hunt every year, to be competitive,” Sanderson said this winter. “Is it realistic to be in the championship hunt seriously every year? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s our goal. Whether we win or not, it’s an inch here, an inch there. Whether an individual wins, it’s an inch here, an inch there. … There’s no secrets, right? It’s just hard work, surround yourself with great kids, keep them moving in the right direction and stay out of their way.”
There is at least one secret: Penn State almost didn’t hire the man whose program has morphed into one of the greatest dynasties in college sports history. It took a significant push from boosters and a leap of faith.
And for at least a few hours the night before Sanderson needed to give Penn State a final answer, he was set on staying at Iowa State.
The man with the chiseled jaw line who now sits calmly at the edge of the wrestling mat saw the potential in a Penn State program that had a proud wrestling tradition but last won a championship in 1953.
“Penn State was always a diamond, it had just gotten a little dusted up over the years,” said Jim Gibbons, a three-time All-America honoree at Iowa State who also coached the Cyclones from 1985 through 1992. He won an NCAA title as a wrestler and coach. “Those guys that wrestled in the late ’80s, early ’90s that I coached against, I’m happy for those guys. I really am. They go to the national championships now, they get to see that, but they also have a pretty good idea of how difficult it was. It probably doesn’t bother them to see some of the power of wrestling move away from the state of Iowa and the state of Oklahoma.”
Now, it’s almost an annual occurrence to see Nittany Lions wrestlers dominate at NCAAs and jog off as teammates run out and do the same. Penn State has progressed from a sleeping giant to a dynasty that shows no sign of declining under the 43-year-old Sanderson.
“We had some of the biggest names in wrestling interested in the job,” said Dave Joyner, a former Penn State wrestler and football player who was on the search committee and later served as athletic director from 2011 through 2015. “The Penn State job was quite a beacon because if you think about it, we’re in the center of the greatest wrestling in the country, if not the world, geographically.”
Stanford coach Rob Koll, then at Cornell, is a State College native whose father, Bill Koll, was the head coach of the Nittany Lions from 1965 through 1978. He was a presumed favorite to replace Sunderland. When the job opened, Sanderson was not among the first handful of candidates Penn State vetted, multiple people on the committee said. Some assumed his initial inquiry was a tactic to gain leverage at Iowa State, according to Lubert.
In fact, it took Sanderson reaching out to Curley a second time for Penn State to meet with him. That conversation prompted the trip to Des Moines, where Lubert sat across the table from his top candidate and asked why he wanted the job.
“He said it had all the raw materials required to build a real dynasty,” Lubert said. “Penn State is located in the middle of really a hotbed wrestling with New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York. He said Penn State had a great history for academics and athletics. He said the facilities were really good and that he could bring the leadership with him and his coaching staff. He thought those four things were required.”
Sanderson maintained eye contact and listened as Lubert outlined the program’s history. The state-of-the-art Lorenzo Wrestling Complex opened in 2006, making the job even more attractive. Sanderson had friends in Pennsylvania who encouraged him to take the job, including Rocky Bonomo, who was then head coach at Lock Haven University, and Chris Bentley, then the coach at Trinity High School in Camp Hill.
Though Sanderson grew up in Utah and gained fame in Iowa, he knew what Penn State could be with full investment in wrestling, which hadn’t always happened in the program’s history. Penn State had more to offer than Iowa State in that regard.
“Hiring me and our staff at the time wasn’t necessarily a no-brainer,” Sanderson said in an email. “Penn State did take a leap of faith in hiring a young coach and staff. … (Ira) had a unique sense of humility and gratitude for all the former coaches, the wrestlers and the tremendous success of the program up to that point. It was all positive.”
Under Sanderson, Penn State has lost only two dual meets in the past seven years. (Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)
Supporters like Lubert and Galen Dreibelbis, a former Pennsylvania state legislator and a real estate developer, were committed to elevating Penn State wrestling. Dreibelbis was giddy at the thought of the hire. He was in Penn State’s Rec Hall in 1953 when the Nittany Lions won their first team national championship. He didn’t expect to wait 58 years until the next one.
Dreibelbis was across campus in the Bryce Jordan Center in 1999 when Sanderson won his first NCAA title as a wrestler. After Sanderson won his fourth, in Albany, N.Y., Dreibelbis returned to the hotel and told Penn State supporters Sanderson was what the program needed.
“They said, ‘Don’t talk so silly, he’s never coached a day in his life,’” Dreibelbis said. “I said that doesn’t matter. The kids will flock to him.”
During the 13-day search for Penn State’s coach, Curley asked Dreibelbis to name his top two choices. He gave Curley the same answer for both: Cael Sanderson. Dreibelbis and Lubert pushed hard to make sure Penn State went to Des Moines to interview Sanderson. Without their push, the hire may not have happened.
“It took a lot for Tim to make an offer to Cael because he had to bring his assistants with him and there was a little higher cost — not much of a higher cost for Cael himself, but for the entire difference in the program,” Lubert said. “I committed to Tim and I committed to Cael that I would be involved and help grow the program philanthropically if needed. That support was important. It was one of the four major pillars Cael talked about.”
Sanderson interviewed on a Monday and visited campus in the middle of the week. By 8 a.m. Friday, he needed to give Curley an answer. Thursday night, Sanderson went into a sauna with his two trusted assistants to discuss the job.
“We left the sauna having decided to stay at Iowa State,” Sanderson said via email. “We had spent a lot of time building the program. We had a tough team coming back, great recruiting class committed and were simply comfortable. Why would we leave? I talked to my dad on the phone late that night, and he basically said, ‘Why would you leave with all the time you have spent and what you have going on at Iowa State?’
“I spent the night on my knees in prayer, and sometime in the middle of the night decided that we were going to Penn State. That was it. As difficult as it would be, I didn’t question that it was the correct decision again. Early in the morning I told Coach Cody and Coach Casey that we were going to Penn State. They said, ‘OK let’s do it.’ I called Tim Curley and told him we were coming.”
Like the rest of the wrestling world, Penn State’s team was stunned. Quentin Wright, Sanderson’s first NCAA champion in Happy Valley, called it a “dream come true.”
Iowa State fans were gutted. Pollard, the athletic director, declined an interview for this story.
Shortly thereafter, the coach who needed no introduction stood before his new team and said they were going to have fun, wrestle hard and be committed. The team found out its days of having too much fun outside the wrestling room would be numbered.
“After Cael, we don’t drink alcohol, but we’re still just as crazy,” Wright said. “Cael’s style is very hands-on. He doesn’t raise his voice. He doesn’t yell. He just says, ‘Hey, let’s go wrestle,’ and then he holds you down for 40 minutes and you can’t get out. You respect it because he can control you wrestling-wise and the things that he does, it was just unbelievable. … Cael would let me take him down 99 percent of the way and then he’d get out, just for fun and to break my spirit.”
Sanderson laid the foundation for a dynasty during the 2009-10 season. Practices were so hard that wrestlers stayed only if they loved the sport or were on scholarship, Wright said. Wright was one of many to redshirt during Sanderson’s first year.
David Taylor, the prized Iowa State commit, followed Sanderson to Penn State, yet another dagger for Cyclones fans. At Penn State, Taylor won two national titles and twice claimed the Dan Hodge Trophy, awarded to the nation’s top collegiate wrestler.
Many on the search committee watched in disbelief in 2011 as Sanderson’s Penn State team won its first national title. The team celebrated with a pizza party and Mountain Dew, Sanderson’s victory drink of choice.
“I thought he was going to be successful, I really did, but I never dreamed this successful,” Lubert said. “I just thought he needed two or three years to get his type of student-athlete at Penn State and to develop them.”
Nine championships later, Sanderson knows better than most how to navigate this critical stretch as external pressure mounts heading into the 2023 NCAA Championships.
This is when many tune in to see if Penn State can win again. It’s where new faces are added to the wall of All-America honorees and legacies are made.
“Our job is to take pressure off them and not put it on,” said Sanderson, who signed a contract extension — with details undisclosed — in 2022. “Everybody feels pressure. Coaches, if you start talking about results, I’m sitting in the corner just like everybody sitting in the stands. It’s like, ‘What can I do to help them?’ … You have to have the right mindset, the right positive energy, believe in them and just let them do their thing.”
As his wrestlers prepped for another Big Ten championship run, 40-plus blue and white star-shaped balloons were tethered to the railing of the Lorenzo Wrestling Complex on a recent afternoon. The balloons were there by design, a reminder from Sanderson that this time of year is supposed to be a celebration. There was child-like amusement with this display. Some of the wrestlers looked at their reflections in the shiny balloons.
They insist Sanderson is a bigger goofball than many outside the program realize.
“That’s part of his brilliance,” Wright said. “Cael is very smart. He has this facade where he’s kind of quiet, he’s mysterious, but he’s very thoughtful and purposeful with everything that he does.”
Sanderson once presented Wright with a handwritten piece of paper that read “1 Free Get Off My Back Card.” Sanderson signed it and claimed it was redeemable whenever. Wright never cashed it in.
Wright still has a copy of the book Sanderson gave him when he needed a pick-me-up. It was titled “How to be Totally Miserable: A Self-Hinder Book.” The massive frowning-face emoji on the cover made Wright laugh. When stress levels get high, Sanderson will give his wrestlers wads of bubble gum to chew. They once gathered to watch “The Lion King” as the university was bursting at the seams in the fall of 2011 amid the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
“No one seems to be able to copy him either and say, let’s do everything Cael Sanderson does,” said Rich Lorenzo, who wrestled at Penn State in the late ’60s and was Penn State’s head coach from 1978 through 1992. “You can’t get the personality and the commitment and the sincerity of the guy. … I’m in love with him.”
On that day earlier this winter, wrestlers whipped dodgeballs before practice began. Taylor, the 2021 Olympic gold medalist, was among the faces in the crowd. In 2010, shortly after Sanderson’s arrival, Penn State was designated as an Olympic Regional Training Center. It’s common to see some of the best wrestlers in the world rolling around in this room with the star-studded collegiate wrestlers. Sanderson is always in the mix too.
The Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, which operates separately from Penn State with funding from donations, has a resident athlete program that’s helped Penn State become a training ground for Olympic hopefuls. Many Penn State wrestlers matriculate to the NLWC.
All of it was part of Sanderson’s plan. But when he stepped in the room in Des Moines and calmly yet confidently sold a group of strangers on what Penn State wrestling could become, even he couldn’t have visualized all of this.
“Some of the results that these guys have had in the past and the program, it’s hard to explain,” Sanderson said. “It’s not something that we can predict. We’re just going to keep giving our best effort every time.”
Fucking ESPN putting the all mats coverage behind the subscription required ESPN+ service this year is lame. I'm not surprised...it's just shitty.
good action so far today. 125 bracket completely busted.
Stupid first flight got delayed so I missed my connection. Missed first session. Ready for session 2.
Real Woods really deserves to lose regularly and infuriatingly does not
He did no wrestling the whole 3rd
Fish from Sparty being the 29 and going Quarters is quite a feat
Demetrius Romero a freshman in 2015, fucking hell that's ridiculous.
Haiti v Amine should be good, iirc it was 5-3 Amine back in January
Fuck yes Allred!!
Fuck off Max Dean
Used up his bullshit calls last year
Silas being the 8 seed is a d*rn travesty
Bet Myles Martin feels amazing right now losing to that guy
Think the trumble loss limited him also a stacked weight
Fair. He’s just on a tear the second half of the season. Something flipped.
Damn...those 125 quarterfinal matches were amazing!
Oh man Matthews from Pitt went out like a pussy. Keep wrestling dude
Mathews didn't take one shot that entire match
I don't think he had a stall warning(should have), idiotic wrestling to engage Bartlett there.
Wow…Yanni almost went down. What a match!
The andonian Haines match was better than expected. Wow
Incredible composure for a freshman to come back from that start
Man I really thought Silas had his toes in on that challenge but apparently not
Hope he wrestles back to AA
In my pre-season predictions I had 5 buckeyes losing in the blood round.
We have 5 buckeyes wrestling in the blood round.
Let's not make a liar out of me! Might as well go for the clean sweep.
7 in the semis has to be a record for us
I mean that's a crazy number but at the same time it wouldn't surprise me if you've all done it before with how dominant you've been.
We've got 4 this year which is one more than we had last year iirc. Manning has got some momentum going into the future too.