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On April 17, 2009, Penn State named national wrestling legend Cael Sanderson as its 12th head wrestling coach and immediately the nation looked East. Since that time, the wrestling landscape across the country has changed as Penn State has claimed five NCAA and Big Ten titles, all while crowning numerous individual champions and maintaining the highest of academic standards.
A career begun in the Midwest...
At just 29 years old, Sanderson came to Penn State after three very productive years as the head coach at his alma mater, Iowa State. Sanderson's teams did not finish any lower than fifth at the NCAA Championships and he never had a wrestler not qualify for nationals, getting 30 of 30 grapplers through to the championship tournament.
After graduating from ISU in 2002, Sanderson spent 2003 and 2004 as a special assistant in the athletic department at Iowa State before joining the ISU coaching staff as an assistant coach in 2004-05. He was promoted to the assistant head coach position the next year and then became the Cyclones' head coach for the 2006-07 season.
In 2007, during Sanderson's rookie campaign, he led ISU to a 13-3 dual meet record and the first of three straight Big 12 Championships. An outstanding NCAA Runner-Up finish in Detroit capped off a wildly successful year as the Cyclones crowned one national champion and Sanderson was honored as Big 12 Coach of the Year, National Rookie Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year. The next year, Sanderson led ISU to a 16-4 dual meet mark, another Big 12 title and a fifth place finish at nationals. Iowa State's seven All-Americans in 2008 were the most at the school since 1993.
In 2009, Sanderson's team went 15-3 in duals, won its third straight Big 12 title and took third place at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis (just 12 points out of first place). The Cyclones also crowned another National Champion. In three years at Iowa State, Sanderson's teams went 44-10, won three conference crowns, qualified all 30 wrestlers for nationals, earned 15 All-American awards and two individual national titles.
A move East and a rapid ascent... His first season at Penn State was solid. Sanderson led Penn State to a 13-6-1 dual meet record, much improved over the prior year's 8-12-2 mark. After a year outside the Top 10, Sanderson led the Lions back to their place among the nation's elite with a ninth place finish at the NCAA Championships and a No. 10 final dual meet ranking from the NWCA Coaches. Sanderson picked up three more All-Americans (including a national finalist) and a Big Ten Champion in younger brother, Cyler Sanderson.
In 2010-11, Sanderson reached the pinnacle of the collegiate coaching mountain by guiding Penn State through a stunning season filled with records, championships and memories that thrilled the Penn State faithful. Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to their first-ever Southern Scuffle Co-Championship and first Virginia Duals Championship since 1991. While guiding Penn State to a 6-1-1 conference mark, Sanderson equaled the highest Big Ten dual meet wins in Penn State history (1998). He led Penn State to the school's first ever Big Ten Championship and was named 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year. He became the first coach in NCAA history to be named both the Big Ten and Big 12 Coach of the Year. Saving the best for last, he led the Nittany Lions to the 2011 NCAA National Championship in Philadelphia, Penn State's first since 1953 and Sanderson's first as a collegiate head coach.
During the 2011-12 season, the nation watched as Sanderson lead Penn State to a 13-1 dual mark, including a school record 7-1 Big Ten dual record to earn a share of the 2012 Big Ten dual meet championship. Sanderson then made it two in a row by leading Penn State to the 2012 Big Ten Championship at Purdue. He was named 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year, earning the honor for the second straight season. Two weeks later, Sanderson led Penn State to a second straight NCAA crown, helping Penn State to become the fifth team in NCAA history to win back-to-back titles. He was named NWCA National Coach of the Year for the second time in his career at the conclusion of the championships in Des Moines.
In 2012-13, Penn State posted an identical 13-1 mark, 7-1 Big Ten dual record and won its third straight Big Ten Championship in Illinois in March. Sanderson earned his third straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor (co) in the process. Two weeks after that, Sanderson guided Penn State to a thrilling third straight NCAA crown, helping Penn State to become just the third team in NCAA history to win three straight team titles. At the tournament's end, he was named NWCA National Coach of the Year.
In 2013-14, Penn State went 15-1 overall and won a share of the Big Ten dual meet title with a 7-1 record. The Nittany Lions won their fourth straight Big Ten Championship in Madison, Wis., helping Sanderson win his fourth straight Big Ten Coach of the Year honor. Two weekends later, the Nittany Lions won their fourth-straight NCAA title, becoming the third team in NCAA history to win four-straight NCAA titles.
In 2014-15, Sanderson led Penn State to an 11-4 dual meet record, a fifth straight Southern Scuffle title, garnering five All-Americans and another individual National Champion at the NCAA Championships.
In 2015-16, he added a sixth straight Southern Scuffle championships, a third Big Ten dual meet title (co-) and the 2016 NWCA National Dual Series championship. He led Penn State to its fifth Big Ten Championship in the last six years in Iowa City and followed that up with his fifth NCAA National Championship in the last six years in New York City's Madison Square Garden.
During his seven years as Penn State's coach, Sanderson has led the Nittany Lions to six straight Southern Scuffle titles, three B1G dual meet titles (co-), five Big Ten Championships, five NCAA Championships, collected 37 All-Americans, 10 National Champions, three Gorriaran winners, two NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestlers, one CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year, one NCAA Elite 89 winner, one NCAA Top 10 Award winner and two Hodge Trophy winners. Sanderson, who has coached 52 total All-Americans and 13 total National Champions (including his three years at Iowa State), owns a 142-24-2 career dual meet mark, 98-14-2 at Penn State.
A coaching career after the most storied collegiate wrestling career ever... To this day, Sanderson is considered the most dominant collegiate competitor in NCAA history. In four years, Sanderson never lost. From 1999-2002, Sanderson posted a 159-0 career record (going 39-0, 40-0, 40-0 and 40-0); won four individual National Championships; won four Most Outstanding Wrestler awards at the NCAA Championships (the only wrestler in NCAA history to do so); became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the Outstanding Wrestler honor and won three Dan Hodge Trophies as the nation's best collegiate wrestler (also a collegiate first). He wrestled his first three years at 184 and then moved to 197 as a senior.
The four-time All-American's four-year streak of perfection was called the No. 2 most outstanding achievement in collegiate sports history by Sports Illustrated. The NCAA called his final win (in the 2002 NCAA 197-pound championship) one of the NCAA's "25 Defining Moments" for its Centennial celebration. His wrestling career culminated in 2004 when the Heber City, Utah, native won the 84 kg Olympic Gold Medal in Athens, Greece.
THE SANDERSON FILE
Full Name: Cael Norman Sanderson
Birthday: June 20, 1979
Birthplace: Provo, Utah
Hometown: Heber City, Utah
Alma Mater: Iowa State, 2002
Children: Tate, Teag
* 2007 NWCA Coach of the Year
* 2007 Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year
* 2007 Amateur Wrestling News Rookie Coach of the Year
* 2007 RevWrestling.com Coach of the Year
* 2011 Big Ten Coach of the Year
* 2012 Big Ten Coach of the Year
* 2012 Intermat National Coach of the Year
* 2013 Big Ten Coach of the Year (co)
* 2013 NWCA Coach of the Year
* 2013 W.I.N. Magazine Coach of the Year
* 2014 Big Ten Coach of the Year
* 2016 Big Ten Coach of the Year
* 2016 InterMat National Coach of the Year
* Only man in NCAA history to earn both Big Ten and Big 12 Coach of the Year honors
* Coached 13 National Champions (11 in 7 years at PSU)
* 52 All-Americans in just 10 years (37 in 7 years at PSU)
* 89 of 100 of his wrestlers qualified for NCAAs
* Coached 19 Big Ten Champions in seven years in the conference.
AS A WRESTLER...
* The only wrestler in NCAA history to never lose a bout over four years
* Four-time NCAA National Champion
* Four-time NCAA Most Outstanding Wrestler
* 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist
* 159-0 as collegiate wrestler
* Four-time Big 12 Champion
* Sports Illustrated called unbeaten streak #2 most outstanding achievement in collegiate history
* Three-time Hodge Trophy winner
* Final NCAA win named one of 25 Defining Moments by NCAA
* ESPY Award for Best Male Collegiate Athlete
* ESPN Sports Century special on his career
* One-time appearance on Wheaties cereal box
|Sanderson's Career Coaching Record|