Cael Sanderson had an answer for why he was leaving Iowa State for Penn State.
He just didn’t know if it was a good one.
The 29-year-old head coach addressed his team Friday afternoon, then spoke with a couple recruits, and then spoke the media, telling of his stunning move to leave Ames.
An offer Sanderson said he wouldn’t have previously considered turned into an opportunity he couldn’t resist.
“A lot of the reasons for staying at Iowa State were more emotional, “Sanderson said. “This is a place that, where you can get it done here, you know. I haven’t been able to quite do that yet. I believed we were right on the edge, and so that makes it even more difficult to “to leave, but I don’t know; it’s a tough decision.
“I don’t know how long “I haven’t slept in a few days here. And it feels like it’s the right thing to do, but only time will tell.”
The latest story of a coach leaving Iowa State is probably the most confusing.
Training in Ames, Sanderson developed the most impressive resume of any collegiate wrestler ever, winning all 159 matches, four NCAA titles and then an Olympic Gold Medal in 2004.
After he was promoted to head coach in the spring of 2006, Sanderson experience immediate success, as the Cyclone won a Big 12 title and placed second in his rookie year.
Iowa State placed third-place at the NCAA Tournament in March and was supposed to bring back a team with 10 returning starters, including Cael’s younger brother, Cyler.
“That didn’t make it any easier,” Cael said. “And being with these guys; I was an assistant when they were recruited here, but they’re great friends of mine. We’ve been though a lot together, and I expect those guys to win the nationals next year.”
Cael said he never thought of leaving his job, but the offer became more intriguing after time and consideration.
He said he sees leaving for Penn State as the best opportunity for his family.
He thought that Cyler would like “to go with us” “a group he expects to include head assistants Casey Cunningham and Cody Sanderson “Cael’s oldest brother.
Cael’s main reason for leaving, he said, was the recruiting base in Pennsylvania, a state which routinely produces many of the top prospects in the country.
“The resources there are, you know, unbelievable,” Sanderson said. “So it’s a lot of weighing things, and it was back and forth my mind, and I really didn’t have a wrong answer. I could stay here where “I love Iowa State, and that’s never going to change.”
Wrestlers were stunned by the decision.
“You here a little bit here and there. I knew coming in, and then I don’t know, I just really wanted to here for myself,” said two-time All-American heavyweight David Zabriskie. “I don’t know I’m not too happy about it.”
Zabriskie said he was planning on staying for his senior season.
“He just said that it was a move that he wanted to make for his family, so that’s for him to take, take it as it is. He didn’t really satisfy what I was expecting for an answer, but I didn’t know what I was expecting for an answer,” he said.
Misinformation circulated about Cael’s new contract, which was rumored to be a five-year, $2.5 million dollar deal.
When asked if that number was close to his new salary, Sanderson seemed almost surprised and said “no.”
Sanderson said the change was never about money, and that athletic director Jaime Pollard asked him several times if there was anything more that he could do.
“It wasn’t ever about a counter offer. I didn’t ask for anything, and the decision wasn’t based on what they were offering me, versus what Iowa State offers me,” Cael said. “I told Jaime that I wasn’t really, not really motivated by money. I’m motivated by opportunity and he’s been very good for me. Very understanding, and it’s hard to leave after you’ve gotten as much support as you have.”