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Cael Norman Sanderson (/ˈkl/ KAYL; born June 20, 1979) is an American former folkstyle and freestyle wrestler, and is the current head coach of the Pennsylvania State University wrestling team. As a wrestler, he won an Olympic gold medal and four NCAA Division I individual titles. In 2002, Sports Illustrated recognized his college career as the second most impressive feat in college sports history.[1]

Cael Sanderson
Weight184 lb (83 kg)
Born (1979-06-20) June 20, 1979 (age 40)
Salt Lake City, Utah
High schoolHeber City (UT) Wasatch
State championships4 (Utah)
CollegeIowa State University
NCAA championships12 (4 competing, 8 coaching)
Olympic teamUnited States of America
Olympic medalGold
StatusHead Coach for Penn State Nittany Lions Wrestling

Early lifeEdit

Sanderson was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is the third of four brothers.[2]

Wrestling careerEdit


After graduating from Wasatch High in 1997, Sanderson competed at Iowa State (ISU). He redshirted the 1997–98 season. As a redshirt freshman, Sanderson won all 39 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 was also undefeated in the 1999–00 season, going 40–0 and winning 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 the prior record, held by Iowa State alumnus Dan Gable, of 98 consecutive wins. He was also named outstanding wrestler in the NCAA tournament and was the first two-time winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy.[3]

Sanderson's 2001–02 campaign was a coronation of sorts. He again went undefeated at 40–0. He became the second wrestler to win an NCAA Division I individual title four times, the first being Pat Smith. He also won his third Dan Hodge Trophy as outstanding wrestler.[4] Sanderson set an NCAA record with 159 straight 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.[1]


Sanderson won a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece[5] as well as a silver medal at the 2003 World Wrestling Championships.[6] Sanderson also would have represented the United States in world competition in 2002. However, citing security concerns, the American freestyle team chose to not compete that year.[7]

In 2011, Sanderson came out of retirement and placed fifth in the world.[8] By 2011, however, he was the head coach of the wrestling team at Pennsylvania State University, and could only train when his coaching responsibilities were taken care of.[9]

Match resultsEdit

World Championships & Olympics
Res. Record Opponent Score Date Event Location
2011 UWW world 5th at 84kg
Loss 13–3   Albert Saritov 0–1, 0–3 September 17, 2011 2011 World Wrestling Championships   Istanbul, Turkey
Win 13–2   Alireza Goudarzi 6–0, 1–0
Win 12–2   Yermek Baiduashov 4–3, 0–1, 2–1
Win 11–2   Yoon Chan-uk Fall
Loss 10–2   Sharif Sharifov 8–2
Win 10–1   Alejandro Gallardo 6–0, 7–0
2004 Olympic   at 84kg
Win 9–1   Moon Eui-jae 3–1 August 28, 2004 2004 Olympic Games   Athens, Greece
Win 8–1   Yoel Romero 3–2
Win 7–1   Majid Khodaei 6–5
Win 6–1   Siarhei Borchanka 9–1
Win 5–1   Magomed Kurugliyev 4–2
2003 UWW world   at 84kg
Loss 4–1   Sazhid Sazhidov 3–4 September 12, 2003 2003 World Wrestling Championships   New York, New York
Win 4–0   Rezav Mindorashvili 4–2
Win 3–0   Mahmed Aghaev 3–0
Win 2–0   Majid Khodaei 8–2
Win 1–0   Tero Perkkioe 8–2

Coaching careerEdit

Iowa StateEdit

Sanderson began his coaching career with the season ending in 2004 as a special assistant for the wrestling team at Iowa State University. After short stints in associate head coaching positions, he became the head coach for the season ending in 2007. In three seasons, Sanderson led the Iowa State University wrestling team to NCAA Division I national placements of second, fifth, and third.[10] He also coached his wrestlers to two individual NCAA Division I national titles.

Penn StateEdit

Before the season ending in 2010, Sanderson became the head coach of the wrestling team at Pennsylvania State University. As of 2019, Sanderson has won eight NCAA Division I team titles.[11] During that time, he also coached his wrestlers to 23 individual NCAA Division I national titles.

Coaching resultsEdit

Coaching Record
Season Team Finish Dual Record All Americans National Champions
Iowa State University
2007   13-3-0 4 1
2008 5th 16-4-0 7 0
2009   15-3-0 4 1
Pennsylvania State University
2010 9th 13-6-1 3 0
2011   17-1-1 5 1
2012   13-1-0 6 3
2013   13-1-0 5 2
2014   15-1-0 7 2
2015 6th 11-4-0 5 1
2016   16-0-0 6 2
2017   14-0-0 6 5
2018   14-0-0 8 4
2019   14-0-0 7 3
Career 184-24-2 73 25

Awards and honorsEdit

  •   Ion Corneanu Memorial

Other honorsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "About Cael Sanderson". Archived from the original on March 31, 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  3. ^ Bamberger, Michael (February 5, 2001). "107–23 And Counting". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  4. ^ Bechtel, Mark (April 1, 2002). "Perfect!". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  5. ^ "Phenom Sanderson captures wrestling gold". Associated Press. August 30, 2004. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
  6. ^ a b Abbott, Gary. "Cael Sanderson named 2003 John Smith Award winner, as the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year by USA Wres | - USA Wrestling". Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  7. ^ "USA Wrestling decides not to attend World Freestyle Championships". Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  8. ^ "Sanderson Takes Fifth at World Championship and Varner Wins Bronze :: Penn State :: Official Athletic Site". 2011-09-17. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  9. ^ "Unretired Cael Sanderson wins freestyle title at trials". Deseret News. 2011-06-11. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  10. ^ 1 second ago. "Cael Sanderson Bio :: Penn State :: Official Athletic Site". Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  11. ^ 1 second ago (2018-03-20). "WR: Two Lions Up for the Hodge! :: Penn State :: Official Athletic Site". Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  12. ^ Abbott, Gary (2005-04-28). "Cael Sanderson named 2004 John Smith Award winner, as the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year by USA Wres | - USA Wrestling". Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  13. ^ Hamilton, Andy (21 July 2012). "Cael Sanderson elected to Des Moines Sunday Register's Iowa Sports Hall of Fame". Des Moines Register. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2012.

External linksEdit