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A Hassled Cael Laying Low While Still in Ames

June 8th, 2009 by Tom

AMES " Cael Sanderson is not done in Iowa just yet.

The former Iowa State wrestling coach has been in and out of Ames since shocking the wrestling world in April with his decision to leave for the head coaching job at Penn State.

Sanderson faced a great deal of criticism from Cyclone fans and, to some, will long be an unpopular figure in the state because of his career choice. Vulgar and even threatening e-mail and letters were written.

One fan, Sanderson said, went to his house, rang the doorbell and threw ISU clothing into the house at his wife, Kelly, and 2-year-old son Tate. They now don't go to the front door when it is someone the family doesn't know.

To avoid any kind of confrontation, the Sandersons keep a pretty low profile. Cael has shied away from public appearances and will continue to do so until ISU summer wrestling camps are over in late July.

"The only problem is that I like to eat (out) a lot," he said. "I'm not in Ames a great deal. I just do what I have to do. I don't go out."

The backlash has died down considerably since Sanderson accepted the new job.

Time has healed those wounds, even more so after Kevin Jackson was hired to take over ISU's program. Still, the negative reaction has been bothersome to Sanderson and his family, though not a surprise.

"That's expected. Kelly knew that when we were making the decision," he said. "I expected people to be upset. I understand. It was emotional for me at first. People care about wrestling and that's why Iowa State has been so good since the beginning."

At last weekend's World Team Trials in Council Bluffs, Sanderson donned a blue Penn State cap.

Despite living in a hotel room when he's in State College, Sanderson has enjoyed organizing the Penn State program, securing recruits and getting his wrestlers to buy into what he's selling.

"Change is exciting," he said. "It's been overwhelming a little bit with some of those things. I like the area a lot. ... It's going well. People know what's going on there. They love wrestling."

The Nittany Lions have a handful of All-Americans returning and will add Cyler Sanderson, who was released from his scholarship at ISU and is planning a transfer to Penn State.

No team members have asked to transfer, Sanderson said. Penn State finished 17th at March's NCAA Championships.

"There's a lot of potential there," Sanderson said. "But just like anything, you have to get in there and work hard. They've got to feel comfortable with me. I don't want anyone there who doesn't want to be there, but those kids all love Penn State."

Former ISU teammate Joe Heskett will be competing against Sanderson for Big Ten Conference supremacy.

Heskett, who was one of the leading candidates to succeed Sanderson, is an assistant coach at Ohio State. Heskett said he was surprised, but not shocked by his friend's decision to leave Ames.

"I think it is good for the sport of wrestling," Heskett said. "I love the competition. The more the merrier. Having him in the Big Ten is great."

How about getting Iowa State on the schedule for a dual meet? In Ames?

"I'm not opposed to it," Sanderson said. "I don't have anything to prove or wouldn't be trying to come in there and do anything."

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Penn State Wrestlers Excited by Cael’s Hiring

April 26th, 2009 by Tom

By Stephen Hennessey and Jocelyn Syrstad
Collegian Staff Writers

The signing of Cael Sanderson as Penn State's next head wrestling coach has 149-pound Penn State wrestler Bubba Jenkins declaring a "new Penn State era "in which the Nittany Lions could challenge Iowa for the "dominating team "in college wrestling.

The announcement of the former Iowa State head coach leaving to become Penn State's next head coach has the Nittany Lion wrestlers excited and Iowa State wrestlers shocked.

"I don't think they could have made a better decision than what they did, "125-pound Penn State wrestler Brad Pataky said. "His credentials are so superior. I am so excited about the decision. I've been such a fan of Cael, so it's really exciting to have him as part of our program."

Sanderson brings one of the most impressive résumés in college wrestling with him to Penn State. He won an ESPY award in 2002 for Best Male Collegiate Athlete after completing an undefeated career, the only wrestler in the history of collegiate wrestling to have an unblemished record. In each of his first three seasons as coach of Iowa State, the Cyclones finished in the top five at the NCAA Tournament.

Jenkins said Sanderson called him Saturday and the two talked for 30 minutes about Cyclone wrestlers who might transfer, coaches who could come with Sanderson and other aspects concerning the Lion squad. Although Jenkins didn't know who the coaches would be, he said the conversation was helpful.

"He's excited. He's really excited, "Jenkins said. "He actually made me excited because he made it sound like it wasn't only about the money -- he really wanted to be at Penn State and be a Nittany Lion."

Sanderson's salary has not yet been made official.

Jenkins referred to next year's Penn State squad as a possible "Nittany Cyclone "team, a mix between wrestlers from Iowa State and Penn State. Jenkins said Sanderson told him most of the older wrestlers on the team would likely stay at Iowa State, but the younger ones could be coming to State College.

Cyclone freshman Matt Brown said he is considering following his coach to Happy Valley after he completes a two-year mission trip with his church.

Brown said Sanderson told a couple of individuals on the team about his decision, but then addressed the entire team Friday to tell them about his decision.

"At first we just thought it was rumors or speculation or something. We didn't think anything of it really, "Cyclone starting 149-pounder Mitch Mueller said. "Once we found out, it was a big surprise and it's a big loss."

Mueller and heavyweight David Zabriskie, both juniors, said they are not considering transferring to Penn State. Zabriskie said having Sanderson as a coach in his corner was an extra bonus because he's a great coach and a legendary figure.

"Penn State can look for big things, great things, "Cyclone 141-pounder Nick Gallick said. "He's great. He's a great coach. He leads by example. You look at his career in wrestling and you don't get any better than that. He's the best there is, and they can definitely look forward to great things. I can't see him coaching a team that isn't successful. He's the best."

Nittany Lions assistant coach Mark Perry said he hadn't talked to Sanderson yet and wasn't sure if he would be kept on staff, but if a good opportunity presented itself, he would like to stay with the Lions.

"Would I like to be here? Yes, "Perry said. "That's why I came here in the first place -- because I think there's so much potential here. If things were right, there's nothing more I would like than to be here. I could really grow from Cael Sanderson."

Current Maryland head coach and former Lion grappler Kerry McCoy said he traveled to State College to meet informally with some people to talk about the coaching vacancy at Penn State following Troy Sunderland's resignation. While he's content with staying with the Terrapins, McCoy said he would have to listen to an offer for an assistant coach position at Penn State if a move made sense for him, but said it is "not likely."

"It's almost like I have to wear two hats: one as a competitor and one as an alum, "McCoy said Friday. "It's intriguing. This made the competition that much more hard, but as an alum, it's great to see."

Junior Penn State wrestler Dan Vallimont said the biggest effect of the Sanderson signing will likely be recruiting. Pataky said young wrestlers from Pennsylvania will not look to go to schools outside of the state anymore, with a legendary figure like Sanderson in-state.

"The name Cael Sanderson will bring kids, "Jenkins said. "I think it's gonna be a good thing for the sport of wrestling just because I think domination from the state of Iowa is going to change, especially recruiting. Everyone is gonna want to flock here."

Perry underwent a coaching change during his wrestling career at Iowa and said the transition from Sunderland's regime to Sanderson's will have a huge impact on the Lion wrestlers.

"For the guys that have been around for a little bit, it's going to be kind of a culture shock just because they've been around one thing for so long, and it's going to be so much different, "Perry said. "They're going to have to be a little more open-minded. When you go from one extreme to the next, it can be challenging, but if you're open-minded, it will work out."

Perry said Sanderson's signing "caught everybody off guard "because he wasn't being talked about as one of the top candidates. But Jenkins said the signing "absolutely "puts the Lions into the conversation for national championship contenders for next season.

"For Penn State fans, they probably couldn't be more ecstatic, "Perry said. "You got one of the legendary names in the sport, and he's young so he'll be here for a long time. Penn State's future is looking bright."

Iowa AD says Tom Brands is not interested in Cyclone job

April 23rd, 2009 by Tom

Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard showed interest in Iowa assistant wrestling coach Terry Brands, according to Hawkeye officials, but the feeling may not have been mutual.

Meanwhile, some of Iowa State's signees are waiting to see who the Cyclones hire for their vacant head coaching position before deciding their immediate futures.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta indicated in an e-mail to The Des Moines Register that Pollard expressed interest in Brands after Cael Sanderson left the Cyclones to become coach at Penn State.

Barta said, however, that Brands indicated he's not interested in replacing Sanderson in Ames.

"Terry is a world-class coach and so this certainly didn't surprise me or anyone else, "Barta wrote. "However, on more than one occasion (Tuesday) Terry shared with me he is not interested in becoming the coach at Iowa State, that he's a Hawkeye."

Brands, the brother of Iowa coach Tom Brands, said Tuesday afternoon he had not been contacted about the job, but declined additional comment on questions that would specifically eliminate his name from consideration.

He left Wednesday for Venezuela to help coach at the Pan American Championships.

Pollard has declined an interview request this week - and has not commented publicly during past coaching searches.

Former Iowa State NCAA champion Joe Heskett, another possible candidate for the job, declined comment Wednesday.

Heskett, a four-time NCAA finalist and former Sanderson teammate, is an assistant coach at Ohio State, which finished second to Iowa during last month's NCAA Tournament.

Iowa State has at least four high school seniors signed to national letters of intent.

Whether many of those recruits enroll at Iowa State or ask to be released from their commitments hinges on Iowa State's next coach.

"I have to wait to see who they hire for me to be released anyway, so I'm waiting to see who they get, "said Trent Weatherman, a two-time state champion from Ballard of Huxley. "Depending on whether I think that's going to be the best choice for me, to see if (scholarship money) stays the same, that will help me make my decision whether I'm staying or going somewhere else."

Weatherman, who helped his team to Class 2-A traditional and dual-meet state championships each of the past two seasons, said the news of Sanderson's departure was difficult to hear.

"It wasn't good news at all, "Weatherman said. "It was a hard enough decision the first time around, and now it's even a harder decision because I have a lot less options and kind of have to make the same choice all over again."

Weatherman said Iowa State told him it will not release recruits from their commitments until they have met with the new coach.

David Taylor, a four-time state champion from St. Paris Graham of Ohio, declined comment Wednesday about his plans.

Brett Means, wrestling coach at Goddard (Kan.) High School, referred questions about the status of four-time state champion Boaz Beard to his father. Beard's father did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

The plans for Luke Macchiaroli, a three-time champion from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, Ariz., are unknown, according to Corona del Sol coach Dave Vibber.

"I will tell you he loved Cael and that is why he wanted to go to Iowa State, "Vibber said.

The wait-and-see carries down to individuals who have considered the Cyclones but remain unsigned.

At Urbandale, coach Mike Moreno said his son, Michael, and teammate Evan Knight want to find out the identity of the new coach.

The elder Moreno was an all-America wrestler at Iowa State, as was Steve Knight, Evan's father.

Changing plans can be a knee-jerk reaction to a coach making a job change, Moreno said.

"After the smoke clears and everything settles, it's still Iowa State, "Moreno said.

Cael’s Official Blog: “Go Cyclones! Go Lions!”

April 23rd, 2009 by Tom

From Cael' Sanderson's Blog:

Hello Everyone,

It has been a very difficult decision for me and my family to go to Penn State University. I have a deep passion and love for Iowa State University. But most importantly I love the staff and wrestlers at ISU like family. I really don't have the words to explain how hard this decision has been. My family and I feel terrible about the kids in the program. I don't have any soothing words to make this ok. It was a tough decision. It's was especially tough because the decision affected a lot more people then just me and my family.

There has been a lot of speculation as to why I have decided to take the job at PSU. I have taken the job because of the long term opportunity and limitless potential of Penn State Wrestling. When I say opportunity, I am not talking about money. I have answered many questions where people are speculating that I got a million dollar contract (dont know where that came from) or something ridiculous like that. The truth is that the offer I received was less then a 10% increase from what I made last year.

The reason I have chosen to take the opportunity to coach PSU is because Pennsylvania is consistently the top high school wrestling state in the country. PA also borders Ohio, NJ, and NY, three of the top ncaa wrestling all-American producing states in the country. Penn State is probably the most popular athletic department in the country. Penn State has more kids apply to school then any other school in the country. The potential is unbelievable. That is why I have decided to make the change at this time. Through a lot of prayer and discussion with my family I feel that I am supposed to go to Penn State.

The opportunity to step in and awake a sleeping GIANT is exciting. I know ISU will always be at or near the top. I feel terrible that I didn't accomplish what I said I would do at Iowa State and that was to win the national championship. That alone almost made me pass on what I feel is a better opportunity for my family. It hurts but down deep I know I have made the right decision. I can't explain that. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I had to compete and coach at Iowa State. I am grateful to Coach Douglas for recruiting me to Iowa State in 1997 and guiding me all the way through my competitive and coaching career.

I am grateful that Jamie Pollard gave me a chance to coach and for the outstanding support he gave me and the program along the way. ISU is lucky to have Jamie Pollard. I sincerely mean that. It was hard to tell Jamie that I was leaving because he has been so supportive of the program. I know that with the right guy ISU will win the NCAA title again very soon. The fact is that ISU has one of the richest traditins in all of college sports. What's important is that ISU Wrestling rolls on and continues to be a force in college wrestling. It will.

I think ISU is sitting in a great position for future success. There is a reason that ISU has the third strongest history in college wrestling. There is a reason that ISU has had close to 70 NCAA champions. The people of Iowa State are incredible. Iowa State has a great chance to win the national tournament next year.

This happened so fast that I didn't get a chance to talk to the many people that have been so special to me, before they heard the news through rumor or another source. I apologize about that. In addition to the kids in the program, ISU has some extremely loyal fans and supporters that I wanted to win so bad for. There are so many incredible people that I would like to thank, here a few names that really come to mind:

Jim and Joan Moore, Jeff Murphy, Tony Coltvet, Dan Paca and Kent Feeds, Gary Lynch and Lynch Livestock, The Jensen Family, Brad, Bev, Marcus and Matt, Jeff Gibbons, Joe Smith and Hunziker & Assoc, Frank Santana, Becky and Darrell Willhite, Jim McCoullough, Nick Passalano, John Allen, Willie Gadson, Barry Weldon, Matt Mulvihill, Derek Mountsier, Cecil Rueter, Bernadette and Ted Greedy, Tim Krieger, Mark Spangler, Lynn McElrath, Coach Les Anderson, Gary McCall, Bill Mitchell, The Kelly Brothers & Family, Tom Peckham, Al Nacin, Joe Paulson, Molly Donnelly, Jean Vogel, Tom Kroeschell!!, Carrie Drake, Cyon Williams, Dustin Gray, Nathan Terry, Ron "Bear" Gray, all of the ISU Staff, all the season ticket holders, and all of the CWC members and everyone else that has been so supportive.

Thank you all so much!!

I know there are many people who are disappointed and angry with me for the decision that I have made. I completely understand your frustration. Despite the many emails wishing me and my family ill will, I still love Iowa State and am very grateful for the 12 years of my life I spent in Ames. I have not ever questioned my decision to be a Cyclone and never will.

Go Cyclones! and Go Lions!

WHO-TV: Cael Defends Decision to Leave ISU

April 23rd, 2009 by Tom
Sanderson talks with local media on Friday in Ames

Iowa State's former head wrestling coach Cael Sanderson says his decision to leave is not about the money. He said it's not true that he will make a staggering amount of cash by leaving to go to Penn State. Sanderson says it's less than a 10% bump in his salary.

On his website, Sanderson also seems to take a little shot at ISU Athletics Director Jamie Pollard, who he writes may have taken a little shot at him. Sanderson posted the comments on his blog Sunday.

"The opportunity to step in and awake a sleeping GIANT is exciting. I know ISU will always be at or near the top. I feel terrible that I didn't accomplish what I said I would do at Iowa State and that was to win the national championship. That alone almost made me pass on what I feel is a better opportunity for my family. It hurts but down deep I know I have made the right decision."

This is likely the part Sanderson's talking about from Pollard's statement he released Friday:

"During the last week, Cael and I talked numerous times and we had several in-depth and personal discussions about this decision. Those talks included me asking what, if anything, could we do to keep him at Iowa State. I also asked President (Gregory) Geoffroy, Bill Fennelly and Greg McDermott to reach out to Cael and they all did so. In the end, Cael said that he appreciated everything Iowa State and our fans had done for him but he believes winning a national championship will be easier at Penn State. He said the high school talent in Pennsylvania and surrounding states is the best in the country and the kids in that area grow up wanting to wrestle for the Nittany Lions. He also said their overall athletics department resources are the best in the country."

As a wrestler at Iowa State, Sanderson became the only NCAA athlete to go undefeated in his college career with a record of 159-0. Sanderson is also an Olympic gold medalist. He had been head coach at ISU since 2006.

Sanderson talks about decision to leave for Penn State

April 20th, 2009 by Tom

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."

ISU wrestling: Sanderson ‘sorry’ to leave Ames

April 20th, 2009 by Tom

By SEAN KEELER AND TOMMY BIRCH "¢ [email protected] "¢ April 17, 2009
Ames, Ia. " Cael Sanderson told reporters today that he hasn't slept in a few days. Now it's Iowa State wrestling fans' turn to suffer through some sleepless nights.

"I don't have an answer for them other than, 'I'm sorry,' " Sanderson said of the news that he was leaving the Cyclones " his alma mater " to coach at Penn State. "I just feel like this is the best move for me and my family (wife Kelly and son Tate)."

The 29-year-old Sanderson, a four-time NCAA champion, had been Iowa State's wrestling coach since 2006, when he was offered the top job in an effort to keep him in Ames at a time when a number of schools " including rival Iowa " had coaching vacancies to fill.

The Cyclones won Big 12 Conference titles all three years under Sanderson and finished in the top five in each of the past three NCAA championships. But Sanderson said the "potential" of a program that hasn't won a national wrestling title since 1953 was enough to sway him to move east.

"The resources there are unbelievable," Sanderson said of the State College, Pa., campus. "There was a lot of weighing things. It was back and forth in my mind. I didn't really have a wrong answer.

"I could stay here, where I love Iowa State and that is never going to change. This is the place that I wanted to win at. This is home. You can't go wrong. It's just the potential and the possibilities of Penn State. It's the highest-regarded institution in sports, in the East and maybe in the country.

Sanderson will be introduced at Penn State in a news conference scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday.

"My intention was never to use Iowa State as a steppingstone," said Sanderson, who appeared to choke back tears as he met with the media at the Lied Recreation Athletic Center. "Leaving, I know that's a tough thing. But I know it's tougher on me than any one of our fans. Nobody cares more about Iowa State wrestling than I do."

Athletic director Jamie Pollard did not grant interview requests by Register reporters today, but said in a statement that he made efforts this week to keep Sanderson in the fold.

"Those talks included me asking what, if anything, could we do to keep him at Iowa State," the statement read. "I also asked President (Gregory) Geoffroy, (women's basketball coach) Bill Fennelly and (men's basketball coach) Greg McDermott to reach out to Cael and they all did so.

"In the end, Cael said that he appreciated everything Iowa State and our fans had done for him but he believes winning a national championship will be easier at Penn State. He said the high school talent in Pennsylvania and surrounding states is the best in the country and the kids in that area grow up wanting to wrestle for the Nittany Lions."

Sanderson earned a base salary of $137,000, making him one of the highest-paid wrestling coaches in the United States. He's expected to make more than that with the Lions, although details were not made available today.

Penn State boasts one of the largest athletic departments in the country, with a budget of $79.2 million for 29 sports during the 2007-08 school year, according to U.S. Department of Education reports. By comparison, Iowa State's budget was $38.6 million over 18 sports. The Lions' total operating expenses for wrestling were $189,088 in '07-08, while the Cyclones' expenses were less than a third of that " $56,782.

Penn State finished 17th at the NCAA championships last month in St. Louis, Mo. Iowa State was third. In the 56 years since the Lions' last national crown, the Cyclones have claimed seven titles, although none since 1987.

"I'm just like everyone else," junior Cyclone wrestler Mitch Mueller said. "I didn't think it'd actually happen."

Sanderson is the only collegiate wrestler to win four national championships while never losing a match (159-0). He also won the United States' only freestyle gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

"There's no better job than Iowa State," said Bobby Douglas, Sanderson's college coach and the man he replaced in Ames. "I think Penn State just upped the ante a little bit as far as wrestling is concerned."

Upon being hired in 2006, Sanderson said: "We want to be the dominant program in the country. I know the expectations are high and that's what I love about Iowa State. We're going to win national championships. There are no other goals here."

He came close once, finishing second in 2007.

"I'm disappointed just a little bit," said Dan Gable, another former Iowa State gold-medal wrestler who also left the program to coach at a Big Ten school " in this case, Iowa. "It wouldn't sit well with me if I was just an Iowa State fan right now."
In his statement, Pollard said a national search for a replacement would begin

"immediately and focus our full attention on identifying and recruiting a new coach who can add to the Iowa State championship legacies of former coaches Hugo Otopalik, Dr. Harold Nichols and Jim Gibbons."

Staff writer Tom Witosky contributed to this report.

Statement from ISU athletics director Jamie Pollard

April 19th, 2009 by Tom

Iowa State University Sports Information

AMES, Iowa -- The following is a statement from Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard:

STATEMENT FROM IOWA STATE A.D. JAMIE POLLARD
(Regarding Cael Sanderson's departure to Penn State)

"Cael (Sanderson) shared with me today that he has accepted the head coaching position at Penn State. I am extremely saddened for our institution's student-athletes, staff, alums and fans. It is a difficult day for all Cyclones as we cope with the departure of a truly outstanding and accomplished student and coach. Cael's unblemished collegiate record, Olympic glory and promising start as a coach all came while he was representing Iowa State University and he will forever be recognized as a Cyclone."

"During the last week, Cael and I talked numerous times and we had several in-depth and personal discussions about this decision. Those talks included me asking what, if anything, could we do to keep him at Iowa State. I also asked President (Gregory) Geoffroy, Bill Fennelly and Greg McDermott to reach out to Cael and they all did so. In the end, Cael said that he appreciated everything Iowa State and our fans had done for him but he believes winning a national championship will be easier at Penn State. He said the high school talent in Pennsylvania and surrounding states is the best in the country and the kids in that area grow up wanting to wrestle for the Nittany Lions. He also said their overall athletics department resources are the best in the country."

"I know this has been a very challenging and emotional decision for Cael and his family. I encourage all of our fans to put aside their disappointment and, instead, respect Cael for making a decision that he believes is in the best interest of his family. We are sad to see him leave, but we certainly wish him the best."

"We will begin a national search for his replacement immediately and focus our full attention on identifying and recruiting a new coach who can add to the Iowa State championship legacies of former coaches Hugo Otopalik, Dr. Harold Nichols and Jim Gibbons."

Official Announcement: Sanderson named head coach at Penn State

April 19th, 2009 by Tom

Penn State University Sports Information

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Director of Athletics Tim Curley has confirmed that wrestling legend Cael Sanderson has accepted the position as the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling program. Sanderson, who recently finished his third year as mentor at Iowa State, will take over the reigns of Penn State's program as its 12th head coach.

 Cael Sanderson (Photo/Tech-Fall.com)

Sanderson will be introduced to the Penn State community and the media at an introductory press conference on Monday, April 20, at 2 p.m. The event will be in Rec Hall and is open to the public. All those in attendance will be able to view the press conference portion of Sanderson's introduction as the new leader of the Nittany Lion wrestling family. The event will be streamed live on www.GoPSUsports.com.

The 29-year old Sanderson comes to Penn State after three extremely successful years as the head coach at his alma mater. Sanderson's teams did not finish any lower than fifth at the NCAA Championships and never had a wrestler not qualify for nationals, getting 30 of 30 grapplers through to the championship tournament.

In 2007, Sanderson's rookie campaign, he led ISU to a 13-3 dual meet record and the first of three straight Big 12 Championships. An NCAA Runner-Up finish in Detroit capped off a wildly successful year as the Cyclones crowned one national champion and Sanderson was honored as Big 12 Coach of the Year, National Rookie Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year. The next year, Sanderson led ISU to a 16-4 dual meet mark, another Big 12 title and a fifth place finish at nationals. Iowa State's seven All-Americans in 2008 were the most at the school since 1993.

This past season, Sanderson's team went 15-3 in duals, won its third straight Big 12 title and took third place at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis (just 12 points out of first place). The Cyclones also crowned another national champion. In three years, Sanderson's teams went 44-10, won three conference crowns, qualified all 30 wrestlers for nationals, and earned 15 All-America awards and two individual national titles.

As a wrestler, Sanderson established himself as the most dominant collegiate competitor in NCAA history. In four years, Sanderson never lost. From 1999-2002, Sanderson posted a 159-0 career record (going 39-0, 40-0, 40-0 and 40-0); won four individual National Championships; won four Most Outstanding Wrestler awards at the NCAA Championships (the only wrestler in NCAA history to do so); became the first freshman in NCAA history to win the O.W. honor and won three Dan Hodge Trophies as the nation's best collegiate wrestler (also a collegiate first). He wrestled his first three years at 184 and them moved to 197 as a senior.

The four-time All-American's four-year streak of perfection was called the No. 2 most outstanding achievement in collegiate sports history by Sports Illustrated and the NCAA called his final win (in the 2002 NCAA 197-pound championship) one of the NCAA's "25 Defining Moments "for its Centennial celebration. His wrestling career culminated in 2004 when the Heber City, Utah, native won the 84 kg Olympic Gold Medal in Athens, Greece.

After graduating in 2002, he spent 2003 and 2004 as a special assistant in the athletic department at Iowa State before joining the ISU coaching staff as an assistant coach in 2004-05. He was promoted to the assistant head coach position the next year and then became the Cyclones' head coach for the 2006-07 season.

Penn State Wrestling season tickets for the 2009-10 season 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.

JR Ogden: Cael Making The Right Move?

April 19th, 2009 by Tom

Gazette sports journalist KJ Pilcher broke the news today that Cael Sanderson is leaving Iowa State for richer fields at Penn State.

The question now is why.

Why would Sanderson ditch is alma mater for Penn State, a school that has some rich wrestling tradition but runs nowhere near Ames' historic past?

It would be simple to say it's all about the benjamins. I've heard $500,000 a year for 5 years. That's $2.5 million. That's just a rumor, by the way.

That's a lot of change, a lot of security for a young and growing family.

I don't know Sanderson as well as many, but what I do know is he's not about money. This, I would guess, is not about only money.

My thinking is Sanderson is tired of playing second fiddle in this state. Tom Brands and the Iowa Hawkeyes have won two straight NCAA titles and have owned the Cyclones in recent duals.

Sanderson is an outstanding recruiter, but he'll never own Iowa like he can own Pennsylvania. That's big state with a lot of outstanding wrestlers. He can build a contender with wrestlers only from that state.

My guess is Sanderson wants to be the man in a state. The best he can hope for in Iowa is to share that title with Brands and company in Iowa City.

Sanderson wants to win a national title and, apparently, thinks that will come easier at PSU than ISU. He may be right.

I read many comments on various posts today and the common thought, even among ISU boosters, is the Cyclone athletics department is in trouble financially. Not cutting sports trouble yet, but strained like many, many others.

Maybe Sanderson didn't think he was getting the needed support in Ames. The crowds were always good, but not great. The administration, from the outside at least, seems to support the sport, but maybe something was happening internally we don't know about.

Don't rip into Sanderson for bailing on his alma mater, instead relish the job he did in three seasons and wish him the best in Happy Valley.

Sanderson wants to win. It's that simple.

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