Cael Sanderson ready for new challenge

By KEVIN EVANS, Executive Sports Editor

AMES — Cael Sanderson isn’t ready to say he won’t wrestle again.

But he’s getting close.

“I haven’t completely (ruled it out), but pretty close, “said Iowa State’s assistant head wrestling coach.

“If I wanted to get back into competing, I couldn’t do that and be a coach at the same time. I think I would have to step back, and I don’t think I am going to be willing to do that.”

Sanderson has done everything on the mat as a wrestler.

From winning 159 straight matches and four NCAA titles to being a three-time U.S. Senior and 2004 Olympic gold medalist, there is nothing for him to prove on the mat.

Now he’d like to build a similar resume as a coach.

“Yeah, I am enjoying it, “he said. “Not just the coaching, but the overall running the program things … the recruiting, trying to get people to come to matches, everything. It is kind of exciting.

“I like recruiting. It is tough and it takes a lot of time, but there really are some great kids out there, and it is not hard to sell them Iowa State wrestling, the tradition, the school and everything that is part of the package. It sells itself.”

There was a time during his competitive career when Sanderson didn’t know if coaching was for him

“I didn’t know until probably later in college that I wanted to be a coach, “said Sanderson, the son of a coach. “Maybe that is when I felt a little more confident that I could be a good coach, do what it takes to be successful. I didn’t want to be a coach if I didn’t think I could do what it takes to win team titles and things like that.

“Whatever I do, I want to be real successful at it. If it is not as a coach, I will find something else to do.”

Sanderson is a two-time academic all-American and has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design. His art was his main activity away from the mat during his younger years.

“There for awhile, I thought I wanted to start a cartoon strip, “he said. “I actually started working on that. Whether it would have been successful or not is a different story.

“That was the plan for awhile. I got to the point where I was trying to do a cartoon every day, and that was a tough job, too.”

Ironically, his drawings are not about the sport he loves.

“It was outside of wrestling, “he said. “That would probably be my niche if I were to get into that. But there is not enough time to do this and do a cartoon.”

Growing up in a family of wrestlers with a dad coaching him in high school makes his career choice a natural.

Wrestling is a sport in which a high number of competitors seem to lean toward coaching the sport. Sanderson said he has watched how others have handled the transition, but he’s also got good examples close to him.

“My dad was a coach my whole life, so I grew up in that environment, “he said. “And coach (Bobby) Douglas, I just kind of follow him. Just as an assistant, I have a lot of things to learn. I pay attention to people and take advice from everyone I can get it from.”

Still, his favorite time of the day is when he gets to be on the mat wrestling. Working with the Cyclone wrestlers helps fill a void.

“I do (miss competing). I love wrestling, “he said. “I look forward to coming in here and competing all of the time. That is one thing that is harder for me than anything — when I am wrestling in here not to try … I want to go out and wrestle and have fun. I have to put the emphasis on getting these guys better rather than coming in here for myself.

“That is tough because I like it so much.”

Part of the learning curve for Sanderson is figuring out what makes his wrestlers tick.

He knows what worked for him, but he is finding out everyone doesn’t operate or get motivated the same way.

“I am trying to figure out what it takes to get these guys at their best, “he said. “I know it is one thing to tell them, but they have to believe what you are telling them. Everyone is a little different, and that is the trick, figuring out what gets them going.

“That’s what everyone says when you try to make the transition. I know what worked for me, but everyone seems to think a little bit differently. So it is frustrating at times, but we’ve got to work it out.

“But I like it, especially with the kids we have in the room now. It makes it a lot of fun.”

Contact Kevin Evans at (319) 291-1469 or [email protected]

Wrestling Gear

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