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Wild Stats That Put Penn State Wrestling’s Dynasty Into Perspective

For the ninth time in 11 years, Cael Sanderson found himself in a familiar position at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Alongside his Penn State wrestling team, he was once again atop the metaphorical podium after winning yet another national championship.

The Nittany Lions’ dynasty is still in great shape following an overwhelmingly successful weekend in Detroit that saw Penn State capture a team title and crown five individual champions. Business is booming for Sanderson’s program, and there’s little reason to think those successes will fade moving forward.

To put Penn State’s prowess into perspective, check out a handful of eye-popping stats from the Nittany Lions’ eventful stretch.

Penn State Has Won Nine Team Titles In 11 Years

Let’s start with the obvious, OK? Capturing nine team titles in the last 11 tournaments is ridiculous.

Sanderson’s stretch since winning his first team championship with Penn State in 2011 stacks up near the best of the best. Perhaps the soundest in-sport comparison is Iowa’s Dan Gable, who coached the Hawkeyes to nine straight team titles from 1978 to 1986 before the program won another nine titles in 10 years starting in 1991.

If Penn State’s machine keeps chugging along, the team could match or surpass a few other sports dynasties. The Boston Celtics won 11 championships in 13 years from 1957 to 1969, while the New York Yankees claimed 11 World Series wins across 15 trips to the Fall Classic from 1947 to 1964. It’s not too crazy to think Penn State could one day surpass those lofty benchmarks.

Nittany Lions Have Claimed About A Third Of All Individual NCAA Titles Since 2011

This sounds crazy on paper, but it’s true. For as much success as Penn State has on the team level, the Nittany Lions are keen on taking care of business individually, too.

Since Sanderson’s first full season as head coach in 2011, Penn State has claimed 32 individual NCAA titles. Factor in the 10 weight classes and run some simple calculations, and you’ll realize that that’s nearly one-third (29.1%) of all individual championships.

Twenty-one schools have produced NCAA champions over the last decade. Penn State (31) maintains an overwhelming lead over Cornell, which trails with just 10 individual titles since 2012. Ohio State (9) and Oklahoma State (9) aren’t far behind.

Since 2011, Penn State Is 45-5 In NCAA Championships Semifinals Bouts

Penn State has a proven track record of winning titles, but what’s arguably even more impressive is the team’s ability to get to the title bouts in the first place.

Following this year’s action, Penn State is now 45-5 in semifinals bouts since 2011. A whopping 90% of Nittany Lions who vyed for a spot in the title match succeeded, and as we already know, they emerged victorious 32 times under Sanderson’s watch.

Penn State’s success in the end-of-tournament action is a real testament to Sanderson’s coaching. Wrestling up to five bouts in a three-day span can be grueling for even the best stars, but Sanderson has time and time again proven he’s able to rally the troops and help his guys succeed when the spotlight shines brightest.

Across The Last Decade, Penn State Is The Only Program With Titles At Each Weight

By now, we know that Penn State wins team titles and a lot of individual championships. Even more impressively, though, the Nittany Lions are winning all across the board.

In the past decade (since 2012), Penn State is the only team with at least one individual champion in each weight class. The Nittany Lions have produced their most individual titles at 184 pounds, as Ed Ruth, Bo Nickal, and Aaron Brooks each won two titles in that bracket.

Curiously, Penn State’s observed the least success at both extremes on the weight scale. Nico Megaludis and Anthony Cassar captured Penn State’s lone titles at 125 and 285 pounds, respectively, since 2012. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have amassed four titles at 165 pounds, five at 174 pounds, six at 184 pounds, and three at 197 pounds. Talk about depth!

Here’s a look at Penn State’s titles since 2012:

  • 125 pounds
    • Nico Megaludis
  • 133 pounds
    • Roman Bravo-Young (2x)
  • 141 pounds
    • Nick Lee (2x)
  • 149 pounds
    • Frank Molinaro
    • Zain Retherford (3x)
  • 157 pounds
    • Jason Nolf (3x)
  • 165 pounds
    • David Taylor (2x)
    • Vincenzo Joseph (2x)
  • 174 pounds
    • Ed Ruth
    • Matt Brown
    • Mark Hall
    • Carter Starocci (2x)
  • 184 pounds
    • Ed Ruth (2x)
    • Bo Nickal (2x)
    • Aaron Brooks (2x)
  • 197 pounds
    • Quentin Wright
    • Bo Nickal
    • Max Dean
  • 285 pounds
    • Anthony Cassar

Once again, Cornell trails Penn State in this category, too, with titles at seven different weights since 2012. Oklahoma State (titles at five weights) and Ohio State (titles at four weights) follow closely behind.

Cael Sanderson Is Just 42 Years Old

This, possibly, is the wildest statistic across Penn State’s dynasty in recent years. Sanderson has achieved world-renowned success with the Nittany Lions and isn’t even halfway through his 40s.

Sanderson has revolutionized Penn State and college wrestling since arriving in Happy Valley, and you can’t help but wonder what he could accomplish by the time his coaching career ends. For now, he’s likely in pursuit of Dan Gable, who coached Iowa to a record 15 team titles across his career. Should the chips fall the right way, Sanderson could very well set a new record before he’s blowing out the candles to celebrate his 50th birthday.

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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 with distinction 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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