STATE COLLEGE, Pa. ” Cael Sanderson accomplished just about every notable achievement during his illustrious career as an amateur wrestler and collegiate coach.
However, there’s one notable exception.
In nine tries as a wrestler and coach at Iowa State, and now the coach of Penn State, Sanderson has never defeated Iowa in a dual meet.
“Is that true? Is that right?” Sanderson deadpanned this week during practice.
“I think there are a lot of coaches who probably haven’t beaten Iowa during their careers. Iowa’s just had some great teams, some great coaches, a lot of great athletes. It’s not something that I’m worried about.”
Sanderson’s next chance comes Sunday when the second-ranked Hawkeyes visit the No. 3 Nittany Lions at Rec Hall.
Penn State, the defending NCAA champion, is 3-0 in its last three dual meets, all against Big Ten foes on the road. The Nittany Lions won 28 of 30 individual bouts and outscored their opponents 117-9.
“I think we’re a more talented team. I’m proud to say that,” said Penn State’s 149-pounder Frank Molinaro. “We’ve got more athletes on our team and we’ve got guys who are better wrestlers, I believe. I believe we’re going to win.”
According to InterMat’s latest individual rankings, eight Penn State wrestlers are ranked among the top 12 at their respective weights, including four ranked either 1 or 2: No. 1 Molinaro (149), No. 1 David Taylor (165), No. 2 Ed Ruth (174), No. 2 Quentin Wright (184), No. 6 Cameron Wade (285), No. 8 Nico Megaludis (125), No. 8 Dylan Alton (157) and No. 12 Morgan McIntosh (197).
Iowa counters with six ranked wrestlers: No. 2 Matt McDonough (125), No. 2 Tony Ramos (133), No. 3 Montell Marion (141), No. 6 Mike Evans (165), No. 9 Ethen Lofthouse and No. 12 Bobby Telford (285).
Despite the edge in ranked wrestlers, the match figures to be close.
“If we have the chance to get bonus points, we absolutely need them,” Sanderson said. “We’ve got to win the close matches, the tight matches. Those are the matches that win these dual meets. Our guys have got to want it and we have to go fight for it.”
Even if the Hawkeyes repeat the 22-13 win they posted a year ago, the Nittany Lions said they won’t let it derail their goal of repeating as Big Ten and national champions.
“Win or lose, we plan on winning, it’s not going to make our season either way,” Sanderson said. “We’re going to move on and prepare for the Big Ten (tournament). Do we want to win this dual? Absolutely. It’s as big as it gets for us.”