The Buffalo Bills-Penn State Wrestling Bromance Continues

Last week, Penn State wrestling headlines took a unique turn when they focused largely on the Buffalo Bills’ infatuation with Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions. A wrestler at heart, Bills head coach Sean McDermott simply loves Penn State’s program.

Now, it’s looking like Penn State wrestling loves McDermott and the Bills right back. At his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Sanderson took a moment to reflect on his own interactions with McDermott, who wound up traveling to Rec Hall in 2019 to sit in on a practice.

“He was really impressive, and he’s our kind of guy in the way that he runs his program,” said Sanderson, who noted he was impressed that McDermott eagerly arrived by himself to watch Penn State train. “He would’ve been happy just to sit there, listen, and watch. Obviously, we were trying to learn from him, so we’re asking him questions at the same time.”

“He was very gracious to the guys,” Sanderson continued. “You can just tell he’s a humble guy but a fierce competitor, and I think that’s why [the Bills] have been so successful — the consistent success, too.”

When he spoke to the media last week, McDermott fondly recalled his visit to Penn State’s campus. He spent a chunk of time applauding Penn State’s preparation and training for competition, especially as the team geared up for the 2019 NCAA Championships.

“This is the top program in America, and they’re playing dodgeball the day or two before they leave for nationals,” McDermott recalled. “I think it’s just really how an elite coach prepares his team for all parts of getting his players, his wrestlers, in this case, to perform at their best in mind, body, and spirit, right? Not just the body, but also the physiological part of of the approach and what goes into it.”

Nearly three years later, Sanderson hasn’t forgotten that fateful dodgeball match, either.

“I think that was one of the more intense games we’ve ever had,” he said. “The team thought they were trying out for the Bills that day, you know?”

McDermott’s appreciation for wrestling isn’t a coincidence. Back in high school, he became a national prep champion wrestler in 1992 and 1993 while competing at 171 pounds. Over time, he interacted with Sanderson and now finds himself learning from the dynasty he built at Penn State.

“I have a ton of respect for Cael,” McDermott said last week. “I mean, you look at not only his personal wrestling career…but what he’s been able to accomplish in the next chapter of his life…You know, just the culture he’s built. You look at the amount of national championships they’ve won, and I think that’s that speaks for itself, but also more broadly, how they’ve done it — not just what they’ve done, but how they’ve done it.”

Now that the Bills’ season has come to a close, who knows where this bromance might go next. We certainly wouldn’t be shocked to see McDermott return to Rec Hall to catch a dual sometime soon.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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