April 18. 2009 9:40PM
Cyclones lose second legend in Sanderson
By K.J. Pilcher
Dan Gable Went from ISU wrestler to Iowa coach
For a second time, Iowa State University couldn't retain one of its best wrestlers to lead it to a national title.
Cael Sanderson, a four-time NCAA champion and the first undefeated college wrestler at 159-0, is leaving Iowa State after three years as head coach to assume the same job at Penn State. He'll be introduced there at a Monday press conference.
Sanderson was hand-picked to take over for his college coach, Bobby Douglas, after the 2005-06 season to prevent other colleges from luring him away. The Cyclones wanted to avoid losing one of their marquee competitors as they did when Dan Gable became a coach at the University of Iowa and built the Hawkeye dynasty.
"It's a different era and he's a different guy. He's not a native Iowan," Gable said. "It's a little sad because he's a big name at Iowa State."
Gable said he's sure it's not all about money but admitted that can be hard to turn down. He said he went through a similar situation when he was approached by Oklahoma State.
"I had my whole family here. He doesn't have those ties," Gable said.
The question now is: Can Sanderson deliver the national title to Penn State he couldn't to his alma mater? He led the Cyclones to three top-five finishes at the national tournament.
The pieces are in place to be successful at Penn State, which has state-of-the-art facilities. He'll bring one of the top names in the sport to a hotbed for prep talent. He'll try to corner the market on some of the nation's top high school wrestlers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey. Pennsylvania is said to have one of its top prep classes in 20 years, including highly touted twin brothers Andrew and Dylan Alton of Central Mountain High School.
Gable said a coach can be successful at Penn State.
"Can Cael Sanderson, that's the question," he said. "It doesn't mean he can't."
The next Cyclones coach will inherit a national title contender. The right person might be able to accomplish what hasn't been done since 1987.
"They're in a position to win a national title next year," Gable said. "National titles don't come very often."
Perry wants to stay
Mark Perry has been around college wrestling his entire life and knows how things work. The former University of Iowa national champion and current Penn State assistant wrestling coach knows his stint with the Nittany Lions could be ending with Sanderson's arrival.
"It's been a real stressful time period," Perry said in a telephone interview Friday shortly after receiving a text message from another PSU assistant coach saying the hire was official. "Right now, it's been a long couple weeks."
Perry said he would like to remain at Penn State and work for Sanderson. He didn't elaborate on specifics but said he had plenty of other coaching options.
Sanderson's brother and top assistant at ISU, Cody Sanderson, and Cyclones assistant Casey Cunningham are said to be joining him at Penn State.
"He might want nothing to do with me," said Perry, who just finished his first season as the team's second assistant. "That's just coaching. I can't take it personally. (But) I would love to learn under somebody like Sanderson."
n Contact the writer: (319) 368-8679 or firstname.lastname@example.org