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Cael Sanderson
High school: Wasatch High
State championships: 4 (Utah)
College: Iowa State University
NCAA championships: 4
Olympic team: United States of America
Olympic medal: Gold
Status: Coach of Penn State University
Olympic medal record
Men's freestyle wrestling
Gold Athens 2004 84 kg
World Championships
Silver 2003 New York 84 kg

Cael Steven Sanderson (born June 20, 1979, in Salt Lake City, Utah), (pronounced "kale") is considered one of the greatest American amateur wrestlers of all time.[citation needed] He is the current head wrestling coach at Penn State University.[1] A 2004 Olympic champion in Athens, Greece, he went undefeated in four years of college wrestling at Iowa State University (159–0), winning four consecutive NCAA titles (1999–2002). He was the first NCAA wrestler to go undefeated with more than 100 wins. Sports Illustrated named his college career as the second most impressive college sports feat behind the setting of four world records by Jesse Owens in a single hour at the 1935 Big Ten track and field conference championship meet.[2]



High school

Cael was the third of four Sanderson brothers to win high school state wrestling titles in Utah while wrestling for Wasatch High School in Heber City, Utah. Sanderson had a 127–3[3] record with four state titles. He was coached by his father Steve. He was also an All-region selection in football.[3]


After graduation from Wasatch High in 1997, Sanderson matriculated at Iowa State University. He redshirted the 1997–98 season. The following season, Sanderson won all 33 matches and the NCAA title at 184 pounds (83 kg). He became the first freshman in NCAA tournament history to be named the NCAA Wrestling Team Championship's most outstanding wrestler.

Sanderson continued to have unblemished success in the 1999–00 season. He completed the season 40–0 with another NCAA title. He also won the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation's most outstanding college wrestler. He was the first underclassman to win the Hodge Trophy. In the off season, he won the World University title in Tokyo, Japan.

As a junior, Sanderson went 40–0, raising his record to 119–0. He broke Iowa state alumnus Dan Gable's record of 100 consecutive wins. He was also named outstanding wrestler in the NCAA tournament and was the first two-time winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy.[4]

Sanderson's 2001–02 campaign was a coronation of sorts. He again went undefeated at 40–0. He became the second wrestler to win the NCAA Division I title four times, the first being Pat Smith. He also won his third Dan Hodge Trophy as outstanding wrestler.[5] Sanderson set an NCAA record with 159 consecutive wins. His success brought attention even from non-wrestling fans. Sanderson was the first wrestler since 1988's "Wheaties Search for Champions" winner, Sammy Chagolla, to be featured on Wheaties cereal boxes for his achievement. His final college accomplishments were a record of 159–0, 4 NCAA titles, 3 Dan Hodge Trophy awards, 4-time NCAA Outstanding Wrestler, and 4-time Big 12 Conference Champion.[2]

2004 Olympics

After graduation, Sanderson worked with the Iowa State wrestling team while training for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Sanderson won gold at the 84 kg(184.8 lbs) weight class, defeating Eui Jae Moon of South Korea in the finals.[6][7]

He was also the 2003 World Championship silver medalist, and a three-time national freestyle champion (2001–03).[8]

Iowa State's coach Bobby Douglas supervised Cael's training for the 2004 Olympics.

Coaching career

On March 29, 2006, it was announced that Bobby Douglas would step down as Iowa State coach and that Sanderson would replace him. In three seasons as the head coach for ISU, Sanderson led the team to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships and three Big 12 Conference team titles.[9]

In 2009 Sanderson accepted the post of wrestling head coach at Penn State University, starting with the 2009-10 season.

Personal life

Sanderson's three brothers also wrestled at Iowa State. Cody, Cole, and Cael all graduated from ISU, while the youngest brother, Cyler, is currently a 157 pounds (71 kg) wrestler.[9][10] Cyler transferred to Penn State to continue wrestling with his brother Cael and recently won the Big Ten championship at 157lbs. [11]


  1. ^ "Penn State Names National Wrestling Legend Cael Sanderson Head Coach of Nittany Lion Program". April 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  2. ^ a b Anderson, Kelli (2002-04-01). "The Top 10: SI picks the most impressive college sports feats ever". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Media". Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  4. ^ Bamberger, Michael (February 5, 2001). "107-23 And Counting". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  5. ^ Bechtel, Mark (April 1, 2002). "Perfect!". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  6. ^ "Phenom Sanderson captures wrestling gold". Associated Press. August 30, 2004. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  7. ^ Farber, Michael (September 6, 2004). "Another Streak Begins". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Kelli (February 24, 2003). "Can't Win 'em All". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  9. ^ a b "Cael Sanderson - Head Coach Biography". Iowa State University Athletics. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  10. ^ "Covering The Quiet American". February 24, 2003. Retrieved 2009-02-13. 
  11. ^ "Penn State Finalizes 2009-10 Wrestling Recruiting Class as Intermat Ranks Group No. 6 Nationally". 7 July 2009. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  12. ^

External links

Preceded by
Troy Sunderland
Penn State Nittany Lions Wrestling Coach
2009 - Present
Succeeded by

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