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March 18, 2017

Cael Sanderson

St. Louis, Missouri

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Penn State head Coach Cael Sanderson. We'll begin with an opening statement and then questions.

COACH SANDERSON: I don't have an opening statement.

Q. You're a man of few words. Actions speak louder than words. Mark Hall said if he's half the man that you are he will have a great life. You really have built a championship culture. I think the person you are is really what drives that. Your guys love you. They'd lay in traffic for you. How do you build a culture like that? How do you do it? Is it your type of personality? Is it the type of person you are? How do you do that?
COACH SANDERSON: First of all, I think Mark's probably just trying to make a joke about my weight, right? Just a nice guy. We have just a great group of people. And the job that Coach Cody and Coach Casey and Varner and Adam Lynch, just phenomenal.

I mean, they're the best of the best. And I'm just grateful that they're coaching with me and we're working together. We love what we do. And we trust each other and we have a great staff. And I think that it's the kids trust the coaches and we're here for the kids. It's not about me. It's not about Coach Casey. It's not about Cody.

That's why today is so -- I'm still kind of like it's just crazy because usually you have somebody lose or something doesn't go right, and as a competitor your heart is always with the kid that doesn't reach his goal. And so this is very special.

And we had, as a team we had eight wrestling, and, what, six All-Americans. But Jimmy Gulibon had a great tourney, won three matches, picked up bonus points twice. Won a head-to-head match with a second place team. That's huge. He had a great tournament. Matt McCutcheon picked up a fall in the first round. Had a great year, wrestled well.

Just a guy that's -- Studebaker got upset. And he had to go through Studebaker and he got beat. But a guy that's part of the glue of the program still hanging around. Still smiling. He's hurting but just lucky that we've got great people around us and it makes it fun.

Q. To expand on that a little bit, what role do they serve that maybe we don't always see? And how did that yesterday, when Casey challenged the technical violation of the headgear, you trusted in him, in completion, from your comments yesterday, could you expand on what they do behind the scenes that we might not always see and how that trust has been built over the years?
COACH SANDERSON: Well, they do everything that I do and more. I'm the one that has to come to the press conference. That's the difference. Neither one of them want to do that. They're both better at it than I am, however. But they're great coaches, wrestling coaches, technique coaches.

They're great mentors for our guys. And they're committed. They're loyal. They just love what they're doing. But they're both -- I mean, they're both a lot better at a lot of things than I am. I'm just the one that has to -- I have to be responsible for those decisions, if they're the right decision or not, and take the heat or if they go wrong.

But either one of them, I mean, they both -- they do a lot. I mean, they're running practices and I'm asking them for advice and what are we doing here, what's the decision, what are we going to do. Just like that I'm going to support you because they're that good. And I would do anything for them.

Q. You've been on some great teams. You've coached some great teams. This team won five in a row. And there's only been three teams that have won five, I'm being told. And your guys did it back to back to back to back. And just talk about that stretch of wrestlers that were able to win tonight and obviously there were a couple that maybe people didn't think would win?
COACH SANDERSON: Yeah, this is a great team. And with Suriano getting hurt, he was a guy we felt had a legit chance to win a national championship as well. This is our best dual season ever, just in how we competed and we're on the road.

So when you have a great dual season like that you want to finish it off with a national championship. And so we're glad that things have worked out for us. But we're always looking ahead, obviously. But we're going to enjoy this, just really happy for the guys.

Pulling a guy like Mark Hall out of redshirt and whenever we did that, that's a tough decision. That's a tough deal. And I'm not the one that makes that the right decision. He is. Mark has to make that the right decision by the way he thinks about it and he goes out there and competes. And he did. And that was special.

Q. I don't know when the last one was or if he was the first, but not many national champions from Texas talk about finding Bo and maybe what's that mean for the state of Texas and wrestling?
COACH SANDERSON: Great people come from everywhere. I mean, when you have a culture of wrestling in hotbeds like Iowa, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Midwest, Oklahoma, New Jersey, now you name them, if you leave someone off they get mad. But it's just different because you don't have the competition on a regular basis. But Bo's parents have been taking him all over the country since he was a little kid getting him the best competition. So it's not that risky when you see kids competing on a national level now.

U.S.A. Wrestling provides these kids with all kinds of opportunities, and I think that's the reason why you are seeing kids winning as freshmen and ready to go right away. Doesn't matter where you're from. If you have the right attitude.

He was the guy. He saw Penn State and he saw how we wrestled and our mindset and he wanted to come to Penn State. And when kids do that, that helps us out, because we want kids that want to be with us.

Q. I'm sure you don't want to use the word "dynasty" but since all these kids are coming back, many are underclassmen, is this the start of something special that we could see for several years?
COACH SANDERSON: I think it's special now. I'm having a good time. We're excited about the future. We'll enjoy this at least for a little while. If you're coaching you're always thinking three, four, five years ahead. So we're going to have the potential to have a great team next year, we're excited about that and great leadership.

Five of our guys are back that won the nationals. We've got some guys that have been hurt that will be back in the mix. But there's some great teams. There's Ohio State has everybody back. And Iowa has a great team coming in, and Oklahoma State's always good. There's a lot of great competition.

Q. Vincenzo Joseph lost to three different wrestlers this year in Keaton Subjeck, Isaiah Martinez and Isaac Jordan. In the last two weeks he's turned around each of those results. How has he progressed throughout the season? What has he done to turn those around?
COACH SANDERSON: He's just gotten better with experience. He's a tough kid. You see that -- you see the look in his eye. He had a great look in his eye during that finals match.

He had some big-time wins. In the quarterfinals I think he scored with a few seconds left against a tough, tough kid. He's just a tough kid. And those guys are all training together all the time. You have Nolf. And you have Zain and Vincenzo and Hall and Bo. And they're battling. They love wrestling.

When they warm up, we have to make sure they don't warm up too much, because they start going and you've got to keep an eye on them because they'll wrestle too much.

Q. Could you talk about Bo's match against Dean. Obviously a kid going for his third NCAA title against another real talented guy. As coaches and athletes, how did you get Bo prepared? And did he follow a game plan or did he just get it done?
COACH SANDERSON: I think you know what your opponent's tendencies are. Gabe Dean has been dominating. He's a phenomenal wrestler. Tough, tough kid. Put him in a tough spot, make him wait three hours for his match. That's how wrestling is now. It's a little different than it was a few years ago.

But Bo's just, he's tough to wrestle. He has great hips. He's good in all positions. So it's just a good match.

Q. Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, how huge is that for this dynasty, this wave we're about to see, what David and Ed Ruth, how you won with those teams, I think that was instrumental in it, but is this the RTC that you guys have there, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, how huge is it to your guys success and is there any tread left on your tires?
COACH SANDERSON: Any tread left on my tires? Not much. Yeah, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club we value that a great deal. We have to raise a lot of money to do that and we have some generous people to help us out. And we do that because it's worthwhile.

Just like all the other big programs and every program that has the capabilities is doing the same thing that we are because it's beneficial. And it helps your kids get tougher, better, faster, and so, yeah, we obviously value that and that's why we put the time into it. We get home tomorrow. We have practice. Because we've got freestyle. We have the U.S. Nationals coming up.

So as a staff it would be nice to call the season over, I'm going fishing, but it's because we love wrestling and we'll be back in there.

We don't get home -- yeah, we get home tomorrow but practice will be Monday. We'll be in there at 1:30 with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club getting ready for nationals and we love it.


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