Cody Sanderson and Casey Cunningham Join Penn State Wrestling Family as Assistant Coaches
June 4, 2009
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Penn State head wrestling coach Cael Sanderson has finalized his new staff as two of his assistants at Iowa State will join three members of the former staff to complete the new wrestling brain trust. Cody Sanderson, Cael's brother, has been named associate head coach while Casey Cunningham has been tabbed head assistant coach. The positions mirror the twosome's positions at ISU.
The duo assisted Sanderson at Iowa State during the new Lion mentor's successful run at the helm of the Cyclones. In addition to the two new hires, Sanderson has announced that former staffers Matt Dernlan, Troy Letters and Aaron Anspach will all remain at Penn State with each assuming new duties. The moves finalize Penn State's new wrestling staff as Sanderson embarks upon his first year at the helm of the Nittany Lion program.
Over the past three seasons, the Sanderson brothers and Cunningham have led Iowa State to second, fifth and third place finishes at the NCAA Championships and have qualified all 30 of their wrestlers for nationals. A total of 15 Iowa State wrestlers earned All-America status during the last three campaigns.
Cody Sanderson served as associate head coach at Iowa State during brother Cael's three-year run as mentor of the Cyclones. Prior to joining Cael in Ames, Cody was the head coach at Utah Valley State (now Utah Valley University), where he started the school's wrestling program from scratch in 2003. Sanderson's efforts helped create the nation's first Division I wrestling program started from scratch in 30 years. Prior to beginning the program at UVSC, Cody served as administrative assistant at Iowa State from 2001 to 2003.
As an athlete, Sanderson was a two-time national finalist at 133 pounds, advancing to the NCAA title bout in 1999 in the Bryce Jordan Center and in 2000 in St. Louis. He ended his stellar Cyclone career with a 116-33 record, including a 33-3 mark his senior year. He also claimed the Big 12 title as a senior and helped spur ISU to a National Runner-Up finish at the NCAA Championships in 2000.
Sanderson graduated from Iowa State in 2000 with a bachelor's degree in pre-medicine. He wife, Sarah, was a standout Gymnast at Iowa State and the couple has three children (sons Kade and Mason and daughter Tylar Ann).
Cunningham served as Cael Sanderson's assistant head coach last season at Iowa State. Prior to his one year stint in Ames, he was an assistant coach at Central Michigan for seven years (2001-2008). During his tenure at CMU, he helped lead 18 Chippewas to All-American honors and 35 Mid-American titles. During Cunningham's last season as an assistant, Central Michigan finished seventh at the 2008 NCAA Championships. CMU dominated the MAC during Cunningham's time with the Chippewas, winning the last 10 regular season championships (including all seven during his run as an assistant).
As a wrestler, Cunningham is among Central Michigan's all-time greats. He capped off his collegiate career in 1999 by winning the 157-pound title in the Bryce Jordan Center, earning the school's first Division I national title and only the second individual title in school history in any sport. The two-time All-American (he was national runner-up in 1998) won three MAC championships (1996, 1997 and 1999) and was twice named MAC Wrestler of the Year (1998 and 1999). Cunningham finished his Chippewa career with a 134-19 record. An accomplished international competitor, Cunningham won the 2008 Pan American Games silver medal and retired from international competition in 2008.
Cunningham earned his bachelor's degree in sociology with an emphasis in criminal justice from CMU in 1999. His wife, Tara (Nott), is an Olympic champion, having won the gold medal in weightlifting at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The couple has three sons, Hayden, Asher and Ryder.
Three members of the former coaching staff will remain at Penn State, but each in a new position. Dernlan will now serve as the program's Director of Wrestling Operations, Letters has moved to the assistant coach position (volunteer) and Anspach will now slide over to work and coach with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club. In addition, Tiffany Clark, the former office manager, has assumed the title of Administrative Assistant for Wrestling.
Cael Sanderson was named the 12th head coach in Penn State's long wrestling history on April 17, 2009, and officially welcomed to the Penn State family at a public introduction and press conference on April 20.
Penn State Wrestling season tickets for the 2009-10 seasons can be reserved now. To make a $20 deposit on the best Rec Hall locations, fans should call 1.800.NITTANY between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays. Current wrestling season ticket holders do not need to make a new deposit and will simply go through the coming renewal process. Penn State wrestling season tickets are all reserved locations in Rec Hall. The exact seat assignments for new commitments will not be available until the renewal cycle is complete, but new season ticket commitments made now will be assigned locations based on Nittany Lion Club point totals and the time/date the deposit was received by Penn State Athletics. Season ticket pricing for the 2009-10 season will be finalized and announced by July 1, 2009.