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Penn State Athletics Extends Its Championship Streak To Nine Years In A Row

It’s no secret that Penn State boasts one of the nation’s most well-rounded stables of athletic teams. Under the tutelage of legendary coaches like Russ Rose and Cael Sanderson, among many others, each of the Nittany Lions’ 31 varsity squads enjoyed various levels of success over the years. In fact, thanks to women’s soccer’s exhilarating 1-0 victory over Duke in the College Cup Final last Sunday, Penn State has successfully brought home at least one National Championship each of the past nine years.

Let’s break down each team that’s helped Penn State collect a total of 17 National Championships since 2007.

(Note: championships won between 2007-2015 shown inside parentheses)

Women’s Volleyball: 1999, (2007-10, 2013, 2014)

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Head Coach Russ Rose talks strategy during a timeout.

Russ Rose is unarguably the most prolific women’s college volleyball coach to ever teach the game, as evidenced by the NCAA-record seven National Championship banners hanging in the Rec Hall rafters. The title run Penn State is on transcends collegiate history; it’s one of the most incredible runs in sports history with a whopping six of the team’s championships coming within the past eight seasons. No. 7 Penn State will face unseeded Hawaii in the Sweet 16 this Friday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Wrestling: 1953, (2011-14)

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Dual-sport athlete Jan Johnson captures victory against Lock Haven.

It’s safe to say that hiring Cael Sanderson in the spring of 2009 was the home-run hire of all home-run hires for Penn State. Sanderson, now only 36-years-old, won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens after embarking on an undefeated college career at Iowa State. Upon arriving in State College, Sanderson immediately created a winning culture in the wrestling room of Rec Hall. The team’s recent four-peat helped Penn State solidify itself as one of the country’s elite programs. stacking the Nittany Lions up with the likes of Iowa, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State. The Nittany Lions are unanimously ranked No. 1 in the nation, and own a perfect 4-0 record early in the season.

Fencing: 1990-91, 1995-00, 2002, (2007, 2009-10, 2014)

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Penn State’s fencing program is the cream of the crop when it comes to collegiate fencing, evidenced by a record 13 National Championships since the NCAA began holding championship events for the sport in 1990. All but the most recent title in 2014 — with newly-promoted Head Coach Wes Glon at the helm — came under Emmanuil Kaidanov, the winningest coach in college fencing history. Kaidanov was fired on August 24, 2013, amid claims that a secretary allegedly saw a female fencer with drugs on her person.

However, the student-athlete was cleared of any wrongdoing upon passing a drug test. Members of the men’s and women’s team came forward in support of the 31-year veteran a few weeks later, but it was too late to save Kaidanov’s job. He later sued the university, then-athletic director Dave Joyner, and athletics integrity officer Julie Del Giorno. Regardless, both teams are hard at work preparing for the NCAA Championships this coming spring.

Women’s Soccer: (2015)

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Penn State hoists the 2015 women’s soccer championship trophy.

Erica Walsh’s Nittany Lions recently capped a phenomenal NCAA Tournament that featured 20 goals scored and zero allowed on their way to both the program and Big Ten’s first-ever National Championship, which came after a 1-0 defeat of Duke in Cary, NC this past Sunday. Walsh’s resume includes an incredible 157 wins during her nine-year tenure at Penn State, and is undoubtedly thrilled to join her illustrious Rec Hall officemates — Rose and Sanderson — as a National Champion.

The Nittany Lions’ senior class — composed of College Cup Final hero Raquel Rodríguez, Britt Eckerstrom, Mallory Weber, Teddy Chase, and Megan Ritchey — has definitely seen its fortunes come full circle since losing the 2012 National Championship to juggernaut North Carolina as freshmen. These electrifying athletes, along with their 22 teammates, are the latest Penn Staters to capture an NCAA crown.

Men’s Volleyball: 1994, (2008)

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Image: Mark Selders/GoPSUSports

Head Coach Mark Pavlik’s 21-year career includes a pair of national titles won in a sport that’s usually dominated by west-coast powerhouses like UCLA and Pepperdine — something Pavlik prides his program on. In fact, Penn State is the eastern-most team to ever win an NCAA National Championship. The Nittany Lions kick off their 2016 campaign on Jan. 7 against USC in Rec Hall.

Men’s Gymnastics: 1948, 1953-54, 1957, 1959-61, 1965, 1976, 2000, 2004, (2007)

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Penn State strung together quite a 67-year stretch, to say the least. Perhaps the most consistently dominant program in the athletics department, men’s gymnastics thrived in Happy Valley for well over half a century. Legendary head coach Gene Wettstone, who was dubbed the “Dean of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches” for his NCAA-record nine National Championships, passed away at the age of 100 in 2013. Wettstone, a 1937 Iowa grad and an accomplished gymnast himself, is the namesake of Penn State’s Gymnastics Complex in the White Building. He also coached Team USA in the 1948 and 1956 Summer Olympics. Wettsone even revived the tradition of having a Nittany Lion mascot after a 12-year hiatus, wearing it for a season before handing off the job to a student.

Now, under the direction of 1982 Penn State graduate Randy Jepson, the Nittany Lions returned to a similar level of prominence having won a trio of national titles since 2000. Jepson was named the National Coach of the Year for his efforts in guiding Penn State to a National Championship crown in 2007. The Nittany Lions start their season at home against Army West Point on Jan. 9, 2016.

***

Penn State consistently finds itself among the nation’s finest athletic departments, and the recent run of championship success certainly attests to that notion. Given the recent trend, don’t be surprised to see more teams add to Penn State’s trophy cabinet.

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About the Author

Ethan Kasales

Ethan’s a senior journalism major who grew up in Lemont, a few minutes from campus. When he’s not covering Penn State sports, you can usually find him golfing or teaching snowboarding at Tussey Mountain. Feel free to email him at [email protected]

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