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Cael Leaving for Penn State

April 19th, 2009 by Tom

By K.J. Pilcher

The Gazette

A source associated with the Iowa State wrestling program has confirmed that Cael Sanderson is leaving Iowa State University and will be named the head coach at Penn State University to replace the recently resigned Troy Sunderland.

The source said an Iowa State team meeting was scheduled for 3 p.m. today.

The Center Daily Times, which covers Penn State, had reported in its Friday edition that Sanderson was at Penn State interviewing for job.

Rumors and Internet comments had been flying about the situation since Thursday.

Sunderland resigned this month after 11 years as head coach. Penn State spokesman Pat Donghia said Thursday the university had no comment on the search process.

Sanderson, an Iowa State alumnus, recently completed his third season coaching the Cyclones. Iowa State finished third behind Iowa and Ohio State during last month's NCAA Championships. The Cyclones also won the Big 12 Tournament title and finished 15-3 in dual meets.

Sanderson went 159-0 during his college career at Iowa State. He captured his fourth NCAA title in 2002 and claimed a gold medal two years later at the Athens Olympics. Sanderson replaced Bobby Douglas as the Cylcones' head coach in 2006.

Sanderson has deep ties to Iowa State. His older brother, Cody, is the school's associate head coach, while his younger brother, Cyler, wrestles for the Cyclones.

Sanderson received a base salary of $132,500 during the 2008 fiscal year, according to Iowa public records.

Sanderson, 29, is one of multiple high-profile coaches who have been in contact with Penn State. According to multiple sources, the search committee has interviewed more than a half-dozen coaches.

10 Coaches, 1 Question: What 1 Thing Would You Change About College Wrestling?

February 2nd, 2009 by Tom

The following 10 coaches were asked the exact same question: If you could change one thing about college wrestling what would it be?

Tom Brands, University of Iowa Head Wrestling Coach

It would be the weigh-in procedures and basically how they have done a disservice to nutrition in this sport.

Barry Davis, University of Wisconsin Head Coach
Stalling calls. Make the guys wrestle more. That's all. It's the best sport going right now. A lot of action. It's such a good thing now. You don't need to change much of it, just make guys wrestle.

If you watch international wrestling it's boring to watch because you can stall and get away with it. There's not enough points scored.

Todd Hibbs, Olivet College Head Wrestling Coach
I'm one of those folks who is in favor of the one semester sport. I love this sport. I love all the competitions. I love all the time we get to put into it, but I really think one semester is the way to go.

I just think that academically it makes a lot of sense. In a sport where you have weight management issues it makes a lot of sense. I'm pretty strongly in favor of that move.

Rob Koll, Cornell University Head Wrestling Coach
I'd take a month off the season. It's too darn long. In what sport can you peak for six months? You simply can't do it. And it's also a sport where you have the weight cutting and it's so physical.

The football season is probably about a third as long as wrestling and it's a similar kind of contact sport. I think you have a lot of injuries because of the length.

The old-timers can say that we always used to be this way but the old-timers didn't wrestle 150 matches in the summer either. So the season never ends.

I think you could take one month off of competition and it would allow people to focus more on dual meets, which are more exciting. It would allow me to focus more on dual meets as opposed to backing off "and letting kids rest and peak at the right time.

Mike Machholz, Missouri Valley Head Wrestling Coach
What I would like is to go to a little bit later season. Get away from March Madness and make it one semester.

See more at http://www.wrestling411.tv/?p=868

written by Kyle Klingman

USA Today: Brands, Cael Reignite Iowa/ISU Rivalry

December 8th, 2008 by Tom

Brands, Sanderson re-ignite Iowa wrestling rivalry

By Luke Meredith, AP Sports Writer

DES MOINES, Iowa " They're shooting for a record crowd Saturday night in Iowa City.

Local authorities gave the University of Iowa permission to increase the capacity at Carver-Hawkeye Arena from 15,500 to 16,000. Officials have warned folks to buy their tickets in advance and arrive early, and the school plans to run shuttles from parking lots around campus to alleviate traffic.

Must be a Jonas Brothers concert, a Hannah Montana show or a big-time basketball matchup, right?

No, no and no.

It's the annual dual meet between the Iowa State and Iowa wrestling teams. In a state that prides itself on being a cradle of wrestling, that's a very big deal - and this year's matchup between top-rated Iowa and second-ranked Iowa State could be the biggest yet.

Iowa is hoping to break the dual-meet record of 15,646 set by Minnesota when it hosted the Hawkeyes in 2002. The school had sold 13,500 tickets as of Thursday morning.

"I think it shows that wrestling is strong in Iowa, "said Iowa coach Tom Brands. "When you look at two programs that are 200 miles apart, or whatever, I don't know if there's any other place in the country like that."

That one of the biggest rivalries in all of college sports is as popular as ever is a testament to the schools' dynamic young coaches - Brands and his Iowa State counterpart, former Olympic gold medalist Cael Sanderson.

The 40-year-old Brands, himself a gold medalist at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, was hired by the Hawkeyes in 2006 after they fired coach Jim Zalesky, who had the unenviable task of replacing legend Dan Gable. Though Zalesky won three straight national titles at Iowa from 1998-2000, a six-year drought followed.

Brands, a former three-time national champion at Iowa, was charged with putting the nation's pre-eminent program back atop the college wrestling hierarchy. It took him just two seasons to get there, as last spring Iowa rolled to its 21st national title by a whopping margin of 38.5 points.

Brands - who recently signed a contract extension through 2013 that will pay him $150,000 a year plus incentives - will be hard-pressed to approach the 15 national crowns Iowa won under Gable from 1977-97, but he appears to have laid the foundation for an extended run at the top.

Iowa has won 22 straight dual meets and is favored to repeat as national champions. The 13 wrestlers in position to compete in the 10 individual matches on Saturday night are a combined 74-6 this season.

"These guys are about the lifestyle. They are geared toward doing the best they can every time they step out on the mat, "Brands said. "The one thing about this team that I like is that when they get ready to go, they're pretty good."

Sanderson, hired by the Cyclones a week before Brands got the Iowa job, is widely viewed as the greatest college wrestler who ever lived. He's already established a strong reputation as a coach, even though he won't turn 30 until next June.

Sanderson went 159-0 at Iowa State and was the only athlete ever named the Most Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA meet four times. He spent just two seasons as an assistant with the Cyclones before becoming head coach.

Though the man who once graced the cover of a Wheaties box likely could coach anywhere he wanted, Sanderson views the Iowa State job as a "dream situation."

The Cyclones feel the same way. Besides the esteem that comes with having Sanderson as the face of the program, a team that slipped to 13th at the national meet in 2006 has won two straight Big 12 titles and was second at the 2007 national meet.

The Cyclones are ranked No. 2 in the latest Intermat/NWCA poll.

"It's awesome. That's why I'm coaching here, "Sanderson said. "Wrestling is important at Iowa State. We do have the support of the fans and the alumni and the university."

Sanderson has put Iowa State in position to challenge for its first national title since 1987, but the Cyclones know that the road to the title will go through Iowa City.

They'll get to see how they stack up to the vaunted Hawkeyes and a raucous crowd that, even by Iowa standards, figures to be huge.

"It's fun, it's something that I look forward to as a coach. I know our wrestlers look forward to it, "Sanderson said. "If you get a chance to step out there on a stage where there's 10,000-plus, 15,000 people watching, it's pretty cool."

US Freestyle Coach Jackson: “We Have To Rethink Our Whole System”

September 8th, 2008 by Tom

Wrestling coach Jackson calls for program 'overhaul'

After winning wrestling gold for the USA in his first Olympics in 2000, Brandon Slay left the sport and now is in real estate in Dallas. Cael Sanderson won the Olympics in his first try in 2004, retired from the mat and now coaches at Iowa State.This week, Russia's Bouvaisa Saitiev won his third Olympic wrestling gold and Mavlet Batirov won his second.

"Our Olympic champions, Brandon Slay, Cael Sanderson, one (Olympic) cycle in them. "¦ That's not conducive to beating guys who are on this circuit continuously, "U.S. national freestyle coach Kevin Jackson said after a disappointing finish by his squad.

Seven U.S. freestyle wrestlers combined for one medal, albeit a gold by Henry Cejudo.

Daniel Cormier, the only team member who had been to the Olympics before, didn't wrestle Thursday after being hospitalized because of dehydration from weight cutting.
U.S. Greco-Roman wrestlers won a bronze, as did the women's freestyle team.

"We've got to make an overhaul of our whole system. We have to allow our guys to be able to compete in two or three cycles, "Jackson said.

He wants enhanced financial incentives for top wrestlers to train full time at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and to stay in the sport.

Cejudo, 21, has been at the center since high school, skipping college. Jackson said heavyweight Steve Mocco has been the only other member of this Olympic freestyle team based there.
Other wrestlers work as college assistant coaches and train at college-based clubs. "It doesn't work, "Jackson said.

For a U.S. wrestler, an Olympic gold medal was worth bonuses totaling $65,000 this year.

The financial incentives to train in Colorado Springs? Over the course of a year, "there's none, "Jackson said.

"A guy like Henry Cejudo "¦ that's a single man, it's $24,000 to house and feed him, "Jackson added.

He said a club sponsorship can mean another $600 to $1,000 a month, plus a six-month training stipend of about $500 to $1,000 a month.

"So for a single guy like (Cejudo) "¦ it's about 50 grand, "Jackson said.

If a wrestler has a family? "Now, I've got to win the gold medal every time, "Jackson said, referring to bonuses for world and Olympic medals. He said USA Wrestling has been in discussions about developing and funding a new system.

Terry Brands, assistant national freestyle coach, puts emphasis elsewhere.

"We've got to be tigers on the mat and ferocious in our competitions. And that's the bottom line, "Brands said.

Brands acknowledged, "You've got to be able to support yourself. "But referring to Mocco, he added, "That's not what it's about for him. "¦ You can't put a price tag on a gold medal."

Brands won't give any nation an edge because of how it finances wrestlers.

"It doesn't give them an advantage, "he said. "Why am I going to admit my competition has an advantage? "¦ We've got to work harder."

The U.S. freestyle team won three medals (gold and two silvers) in Athens in 2004. Jamil Kelly won a surprise silver. "One cycle in him, "Jackson said.

Russia won three golds in freestyle, three in Greco-Roman and a total of 11 medals in all from wrestling.

"We have to rethink our whole system, "Jackson said.

Iowa vs Iowa State: Bringing Down The Curtain Makes for an Even Tougher Ticket

December 9th, 2007 by Tom

An even tougher ticket

Curtaining off Hilton limits Iowa-ISU crowd

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa State examined ways to improve its wrestling attendance when Cael Sanderson became the head coach, and the Cyclones came up with an unusual strategy -- limiting the number of fans who can attend dual meets at Hilton Coliseum.

Iowa State's home arena has room for 14,092 at capacity, but only approximately 9,000 fans will be able to get through the doors Sunday when the top-ranked Cyclones wrestle No. 4 Iowa.

Iowa State curtained off nearly one-third of the arena to create a more intimate setting for its dual meets and help boost its season-ticket sales.

"Our attendance hasn't been great, and this was one of the first things we looked at as a coaching staff, "Sanderson said. "How do we make this a more exciting environment? How do we make it more appealing for people to buy season tickets? It's just for the overall atmosphere, and that's really it. We don't have enough fans right now to use (all of) Hilton and have the atmosphere we want in every match. We knew this Iowa match would be the one exception. The only problem is this match only comes around every two years."

Sanderson said school officials discussed making more room for the Iowa dual but opted to drop the curtain. Thus, all of the tickets have been sold for a showdown that drew 13,732 last year at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Those who couldn't get a ticket can watch the 2 p.m. dual live on Iowa Public Television.

"We put a lot of thought into it, especially a year or a year and a half ago when we decided to set it up this way, "Sanderson said. "We knew it would be an issue, but my concern is just being loyal to the season ticket holders and their seats. Many of them asked when they bought season tickets, 'What about the Iowa match? Are you going to move it?' We said we weren't moving the mat."

Some argue that turning away followers doesn't benefit a sport that has been trying for years to build its following.

"Really what we're trying to do is get more people to all of our matches and make it a better experience for people, "Sanderson said. "We don't want to turn away fans. A week ago we had close to 2,000 tickets left. We were uncertain we'd even be able to sell out the set up we had. I believe it's for the best for our program and being loyal to the people who are loyal to us, and you also want to keep your environment the same for the student-athletes. That's part of home-field advantage. Switching things up for the biggest match of the year really doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Wrestling has been known as a sport that often attracts a big walk-up crowd on the day of marquee dual meets, but all of the tickets have been sold and approximately 5,000 seats will sit empty behind a curtain Sunday. Nevertheless, the Cyclones have seen their season ticket sales double since Sanderson was promoted to head coach in the spring of 2006 and Iowa State wanted to take measures to draw bigger crowds for opponents such as Northern Illinois, Rider, Wisconsin and Oregon State.

"I don't think it was anyone's intention to keep Hawkeye fans out of the arena, "Sanderson said. "The intention was to make it a more exciting atmosphere for our fans and get our fans to come to more events and not just come to the big ones, and that's been working."

Hilton's current configuration for wrestling requires fans to purchase season tickets or have a National Cyclone Club membership to purchase tickets in the lower level for the Iowa dual. Sanderson said Iowa State lifted those restrictions in mid-November when all of the tickets in that level hadn't yet been sold.

On the surface, the ticket restrictions might seem like another Jamie Pollard strategy. The Iowa State athletics director employed a similar strategy earlier in the year when the Cyclones sold single-game tickets to every home contest except Iowa. Those who wanted tickets to the Iowa game through Iowa State had to purchase season tickets. Those who tried to get tickets from Iowa's allotment for the game were required to pay the host-school-set fee of $90 compared to the $60 fee Iowa State charged for games against Texas and Oklahoma.

Pollard has been known to get under the skin of Iowa fans. When the Cyclones won the multi-sport Cy-Hawk Series in 2005, Pollard put a billboard up approximately 25 miles from the Iowa campus proclaiming Iowa as the "Cyclone State "accompanied by a picture of Iowa State football players hoisting the Cy-Hawk Trophy.

"I give Jamie Pollard a lot of credit, "Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. "He's brought it to the point where he's made some people mad on our side of the fence, and that's exactly what his intentions are. In a way, you're dealing with someone who's trying to play head games, and that's why you have to stay focused on the task at hand."

Brands said he isn't among those on the Iowa side of the fence who have been irritated by Pollard.

"I love it, "he said. "It's right up a competitor's alley. I think his dimension is a little bit like a high-level athlete."

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or [email protected]

Iowa vs Iowa State: The Rivalry Heats Up

December 9th, 2007 by Tom

Coaching changes bring back spark to Iowa State-Iowa wrestling

By Andy Hamilton

It took two major shifts in the coaching landscape 20 months ago before Iowans could feel the tremors returning to a rivalry that once used to shake the state.

The match between Iowa's Mark Perry, right, and Iowa State's Travis Paulson sparked controversy on the sidelines.

Then all it took was another seven minutes to take the Iowa-Iowa State series to a new, earthshaking level.

Two Iowa Wrestlers

"I'm not going to say there's hatred, "Iowa's Mark Perry Jr. said. "But the Iowa-Iowa State thing grows on you, and I think the rivalry picked up last year from where it was when it was big, and it might even be more heated now than it's ever been."

Perry got a good feel for the temperature change last year when he was at the epicenter of what might be the most heated moment in 72 duals between the Hawkeyes and Cyclones. And it doesn't figure to be any cooler Sunday when the two teams meet in front of a sellout crowd at Hilton Coliseum in Ames with perhaps the top spot in the national rankings riding on the outcome.

"I think there are going to be quite a few brawls on Sunday, "Perry said. "I'm not saying fights, but I think there will be a lot of good action, a lot of good wrestling and guys are going to get after it."

Iowa State will likely enter the dual as the No. 1 team in the country after taking down defending NCAA champion Minnesota over the weekend. Iowa has been ranked as high as No. 3 early in the season, and if the Hawkeyes jump the Gophers in the rankings, it would set up the first No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown between Iowa and Iowa State since 1999.

This is just the kind of plot Iowans envisioned in the spring of 2006 when both schools made coaching changes that rekindled the interest in a series that gripped the attention of the wrestling world throughout the 1980s before the Hawkeyes assembled a 30-meet winning streak over the Cyclones and both programs lost their stature as perennial national championship threats.

Iowa bought out the final year of coach Jim Zalesky's contract on March 29. Hours later, Iowa State called a news conference for later that week to announce Bobby Douglas was stepping down as the coach of the Cyclones. Those moves triggered the return of Tom Brands to Iowa, the arrival of the Cael Sanderson era at Iowa State and the beginning of an eight-month wait for the first dual between the two programs that put their future in the hands of iconic figures from their past.

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands and assistant coach Dan Gable exchanged heated words with Iowa State's coaching staff.

Much of the buildup leading into last December's dual in Iowa City dealt with the first-year head coaches matching wits for the first time. Much of the talk after Iowa's 24-6 victory centered around a fiery exchange in the middle of the mat that still seems almost surreal to some of those involved.

The first match had yet to come to a close last year and coaches from both sides had already gotten into a verbal exchange that later grew into a heated argument in the middle of the mat with Brands and Iowa assistant Dan Gable on one side and Sanderson, his brother and assistant coach Cody Sanderson and Iowa State assistant Tim Hartung on the other.

"I know I lost myself in the moment and kind of stepped back afterward and said, 'Wow, what was going on?' "Hartung said. "It was crazy. You couldn't hear, you couldn't even hear yourself think during that specific moment. It was nuts."

The squabble started in the final seconds of the 165-pound bout when Perry came out on top of a wild scramble to score a takedown to force overtime against Travis Paulson in a bout between two All-Americans. Perry clutched his left knee at the end of regulation, inciting the Iowa State bench.

"He wasn't hurt, "said Hartung, who spent the previous two seasons as an assistant at Iowa under Zalesky. "It was a hell of a scramble, [Perry] was obviously fatigued, but so was our guy. We were ready to continue to wrestle and he takes the injury time. Whatever. I remember Tom was telling me to worry about my guy and that's exactly what I should've been doing. It was crazy, man. I don't really remember much of what was said or hardly even the situation that the two wrestlers were in."

Perry won the match with a takedown midway through overtime that ignited the crowd of 13,732. Seconds later, coaches from both teams were sprinting back to the center to resume the dispute.

Iowa State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson is hoping to upset the Hawkeyes.

"You have to realize you're being looked at as a role model and your job is to display calmness under fire, but you've got to stick up for your athlete, "Brands said. "I felt Mark Perry was being assaulted by their coaching staff, so I was out there sticking up for him.

"I remember thinking, 'You're going to be alone here,' and then all of a sudden there's Gable sprinting to the center. That makes a guy feel real good when you've got backup, and Gable is the ultimate backup. I was jawing at Hartung and he didn't care what I was saying. He was jawing at Gable. Cody Sanderson was jawing at Gable. Cael Sanderson was jawing at Gable. It was like I wasn't even there."

The jawing continued in the post-meet news conferences. Cael Sanderson pointed to how easily the outcome could have been different after Iowa won six matches by a collective nine points and said he felt Iowa State controlled the pace of several bouts.

"We didn't take a timeout, "Sanderson said. "I don't know how many timeouts they took. We were pushing them all over. They had injury times."

Said Brands: "Our guy took one timeout. It was Mark Perry. We've got to work on that. You know what, I'll throw some fuel right back on that. I had Mark Perry for a year here [as an Iowa assistant] and then Hartung had him for two years. We're still working the kinks out of him."

On his way out of the interview room, Sanderson asked photographers if anybody had caught Gable "flipping us the bird "during the first match.

"I didn't flip him the bird, I flipped him the arm, "Gable said. "The bird, I know what that means. I don't know what [the arm] means. To me, it meant, 'Come on, guys.' He had just called me a crybaby right before that or something. Sometimes you get a little emotional, but that's part of the game."

The game has changed. The rivalry that used to shake the state of Iowa has reached a new level on college wrestling's seismograph.

Andy Hamilton covers wrestling for the Iowa City Press-Citizen.

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