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Cael Sanderson Eager For Fresh Faces, Excited For Returners Ahead Of Upcoming Campaign

Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson is confident in this year’s squad as he enters his 14th season at the helm.

Coming off of his ninth NCAA Championship win, the four-time NCAA champion and Olympian is excited to get the season started with his team.

The Nittany Lions have four returning national champions on the roster in Roman Bravo-Young, Aaron Brooks, Max Dean, and Carter Starocci. However, Sanderson is eager to get some fresh faces on the mat.

“If kids are working hard and they’re ready to go…most of the time they get a chance to compete, whether they’re a starter, first, second, or third on the ladder,” Sanderson said.

If Penn State wrestling were to have a weak area, it would be at the 125 and 157-pound weight classes. However, redshirt freshman Gary Steen and true freshman Levi Haines might be the answer at 125 and 157, respectively.

“Levi Haines is great,” Sanderson said. “He’s consistent, hard-working, coachable — all those things you look for in a student-athlete.”

The head coach raved about Steen, too, citing his successful collegiate career.

“He’s had a ton of success in his career, so there’s no reason why he wouldn’t continue that,” Sanderson said. “He’s got everything he needs. He’s strong, he’s fast, and he has experience so he’s just like anyone on our team. it’s just up to him to take advantage,”

In terms of the four champions, Sanderson spoke about their improvement in both their physical and mental game during the offseason.

“I think each one of them is going to be better this year than they were last year,” Sanderson said. “But again, it’s up to them. They’re the ones who still have to go out there and let it rip when they compete and just be themselves, but they look really good.”

At the top, Bravo-Young is slated for his fifth season as a Nittany Lion and is a huge asset to the program as an extremely decorated veteran wrestler, returning as the defending Big Ten and national champion.

“We’re obviously very excited to have Roman back,” Sanderson said. “I think everyone in college wrestling is excited to see him come back. He’s a special one — the way he competes, and he’s improved every year.”

The team is set for two duals in the Bryce Jordan Center against No. 6 Michigan and No. 2 Iowa. This addition to the normal schedule is in part due to the new Penn State Athletic Director Pat Kraft, who assumed his position in April.

“We’re very blessed to have Pat,” Sanderson said. “He wants the best athletic department in the country. He doesn’t see any reason why we can’t, and I think that’s awesome. It’s inspiring.”

While those duals are set to happen in 2023 and the anticipation can start to build for arguably some of the biggest duals in the regular season, Sanderson and the Nittany Lions are always looking ahead.

“We’re looking ahead to what’s coming up,” Sanderson said. “The most important thing is the future.”

The Nittany Lions will being their 2023 campaign against Lock Haven at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 11, at Rec Hall.

“We’re expecting a great match and looking forward to competing,” Sanderson said. “They’re going to come in and compete hard and they always do, so we got to be ready to rock and roll.”

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About the Author

Mara McKeon

Mara is a sophomore staff writer majoring in English and public relations. She loves all things sports and anything that has peanut butter. You can usually find her obsessing over country music and counting down the days until she gets to see Luke Combs at the Linc. Feel free to reach her on Twitter @MckeonMara, and for more formal affairs, her email is [email protected]

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