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200 Wins In: Looking Back At The Best Victories Of Cael Sanderson’s Penn State Career

Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson picked up his 200th career coaching victory when No. 3 Penn State knocked off No. 2 Michigan 18-13 Sunday morning in Ann Arbor.

Sanderson has posted a record of 200-26-2 during his time as a head coach for Iowa State and Penn State. The 41-year-old has coached Penn State to eight national championships, winning them all over a nine-year span. He has also coached 25 individual national champions and 73 All-Americans.

Let’s take a brief look at some of Sanderson’s most memorable wins as the Nittany Lions’ head coach.

2018: Penn State vs. Ohio State Dual Meet

In 2018, Cael Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to a dual win over Ohio State 19-18 in what might go down as one of the greatest meets ever wrestled. The comeback victory gave Penn State a share of the Big Ten Dual Meet Championship.

Wrestling without No. 1 Jason Nolf at 157 lbs., Penn State won four of the last five bouts to overcome its 10-point halftime deficit over the Buckeyes. The dual meet featured 23 All-Americans, nine wrestlers ranked No. 1 at their weight class, and 16 individuals ranked in the top-eight of their weight class.

The comeback effort was highlighted by Anthony Cassar’s upset win over top-ranked Kollin Moore at 197 lbs. Cassar’s electric 6-3 decision brought a sold-out Rec Hall to its feet and gave Penn State a 19-15 lead going into the last match of the night. Heavyweight Nick Nevills wrestled a tightly contested match against defending national champion Kyle Snyder, losing a 15-10 decision to secure the win for Sanderson and the Nittany Lions.

The victory extended Penn State’s dual meet win streak to 43 at the time.

2016: Penn State vs. Oklahoma State Dual Meet

Another memorable moment during Sanderson’s tenure was when the Nittany Lions knocked off Oklahoma State to win the 2016 NWCA National Dual Championship Series title.

The win gave Penn State a perfect 16-0 record on the year. The perfect season marked the first time the Nittany Lions went through the entire regular season without a blemish on their record since 1972.

The dual win was led by Nico Megaludis, Jason Nolf, Morgan McIntosh, and Bo Nikal, who scored the team 11 combined bonus points via three pins and one technical fall, respectfully. Cael Sanderson would go on to lead his team to another national title that year.

2013: Third Straight National Title

Sanderson led the Nittany Lions to their third National Championship in a row in Des Moines, Iowa in 2013. He also coached two individual champions that day with Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright.

Penn State narrowly defeated Oklahoma State in the team score that year, outscoring the Cowboys 123.5 to 119.5. It was 197-pounder Quentin Wright who was able to seal the deal for Sanderson’s squad that night. With the NCAA Championship on the line, the senior beat undefeated No. 1 Dustin Kilgore of Kent State with a last-minute takedown to win 8-6.

The team posted a 31-13 overall record during the tournament. Sanderson was then named the 2013 NWCA National Coach of the Year, marking the first time he has won the award at Penn State.

2018: National Title No. 8

Penn State’s 2018 National Championship run in Cleveland, Ohio was one of the most thrilling performances I can remember as a wrestling fan.

Sanderson led his wrestlers to a 4-1 performance in the finals, deleting a six-point deficit heading into the final round of the tournament. Penn State clinched the title that night after Bo Nikal pinned Ohio State’s Myles Martin to win his second straight NCAA title. The pin gave Penn State 141.5 team points, which pushed it ahead of Ohio State’s 134.5 team points.

Sanderson helped lead the Nittany Lions to score the second-highest number of team points in their history at the NCAA Championship Tournament. He coached Zain Retherford as the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler of the Year, Nikal as the NCAA Championship Tournament Outstanding Wrestler, and won NWCA Tournament Coach of the Year.

2021: Penn State @ Michigan Dual Meet

In my opinion, Sunday’s contest against Michigan may have been just as impressive as some of the other big wins Sanderson has under his belt.

Despite their youth, Sanderson rallied the Nittany Lions to pick up the upset win over the more experienced No. 2 Michigan. They also had not wrestled in nearly two weeks because of COVID-19 postponements and started five freshmen in their lineup.


Many fans have come to expect wins like this from Sanderson’s squad, but he continues to prove that no matter who Penn State is wrestling in its lineup, he’s going to coach them to wrestle their best and shine on the big stage. At only 41 years old, Sanderson has the chance to become one of the most decorated collegiate wrestling coaches of all time.

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About the Author

Max Tolson

Max is a senior majoring in print journalism. He hails from the small town of Millsboro, DE and loves to watch the Eagles and Penn State wrestling. Follow him on twitter @TolsonMax or send emails to [email protected] Go Birds!

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