From the Shamokin (PA) News-Item http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=13568012&BRD=2311&PAG=461&dept_id=482259&rfi=6
Sanderson, an NCAA and Olympic champion, remembers visits to Keystone State
As an unbeaten, four-time NCAA wrestling champion and Olympic gold medalist, Cael Sanderson owns plenty of great memories. Many of them occurred here in Pennsylvania.
“I like Pennsylvania,” Sanderson said after conducting a clinic for wrestlers from Lewisburg, Milton, Midd-West, and Southern Columbia high schools last week at Lewisburg High School.
“I’ve had some good experiences here. My first national championship was here at Penn State, and we had the National Duals here a couple times. It’s nice to wrestle here just because there is such a strong following, and such a strong tradition all the way from young wrestlers to Olympians. Pennsylvania, I would say, is the top producer in wrestling.”
The Iowa State wrestler’s four-year run of collegiate championships did, indeed, begin in the Keystone state, when he beat Minnesota’s Brandon Eggum, 6-1, for title No. 1 in 1999. A year later, he helped the Cyclones win the National Duals at the Bryce Jordan Center with a 4-0 record. And in 2001, again at the Penn State-hosted Duals, went 5-0.
During his senior season he won the 197-pound championship at the Keystone Classic in Philadelphia.
In all, 18 of Sanderson’s 159 victories (against 0 losses) came in Pennsylvania.
Sanderson’s biggest victory, though, didn’t happen in Pennsylvania, or the United States. It came at the Athens Olympics in August. Sanderson became an Olympic champion with his 3-1 decision over Eiu-Jae Moon of South Korea.
Sanderson, who grew up in Heber City, Utah, and is now the assistant head coach at Iowa State, admitted he still sometimes can’t believe he is a gold medal winner.
“It hits me every once in a while, and I just have to stop and think about it,” Sanderson said. “It was a goal of mine for more than 18 years, but it happened.”
So, how does an Olympic champion who rarely puts on clinics end up staging a two-hour demonstration for four small schools in Central Pennsylvania?
His love of baseball, specifically his devotion to the St. Louis Cardinals, was the reason.
A lifelong Cardinals fan, Sanderson and Steve Kline, a St. Louis pitcher and Lewisburg area resident, met after a call from USA Wrestling writer John Fuller to the Cards’ lefty reliever.
“Fuller said Cael was a big baseball fan and he would like to come out and see a game,” Kline said. “Fuller knew that I kind of coached high school wrestling back here in Pennsylvania. Cael thought it was neat that I did that. I got him to a game and took down on the field and introduced him to some of the guys. We talked, had a great time, and I met his wife.
“He said, ‘If you need me to come in and do a camp for your team, I’ll do it. Let’s set a date.’ We did and now he’s here.”
With area wrestlers ringing him on the mat, Sanderson concentrated mostly on motivating young wrestlers with his talk, and then demonstrated setups and takedown techniques that helped make him a champion.
“It’s easy for me to get out there and tell these wrestlers about setting goals and attitude, simply because I feel so strongly about those things,” Sanderson said at the end of the clinic. “I try to keep everything pretty simple and fundamental. That’s what wins matches and that’s what has won matches for me.
“The wrestlers’ coaches know technique and can teach technique, but it’s getting the wrestlers here and getting them motivated and excited about the sport that is important to me.”
Much of what Sanderson said during the session was the directed at the various coaches, who took time out from their teams’ regular practice time.
“I know it’s hard for a kid to sit there and pay attention. Clinics and things weren’t my favorite things do as a kid, but I know they helped,” Sanderson said. “When I’m talking (about technique), I feel I am talking more to the coaches, showing them and teaching them what helped me.”
One wrestler who focused on Sanderson’s every word Wednesday was Milton’s Charlie Johnson. The junior, who is unbeaten in nine matches this year at 189 pounds, is close to Sanderson’s size and served as Sanderson’s workout partner.
“This was awesome,” Johnson said of his chance to wrestle with Sanderson. “It’s a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to work with an Olympic champion. He showed me stuff that I never saw before. It’s all new. I’ll work on it at my team practices.”
The three-time winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy ” college wrestling’s version of the Heisman trophy ” hinted that one gold medal might be enough for him.
“I might be finished competing,” he said. “I want to start a family, and there are other things outside of wrestling.”
Still, coaching is what Sanderson wants to do.
“I’m just learning (how to coach right now),” Sanderson said. “Coach (Bobby) Douglas knows that I am trying to figure things out, and he isn’t putting any pressure on me to be this great coach. He just wants me in there training and doing what I can.”