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March 17, 2018

Cael Sanderson

Cleveland, Ohio

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the head coach of Penn State, Cael Sanderson. As everyone knows, Penn State captured the team title. Coach, give us your opening thoughts on winning the team title and how your team performed at the national championship this year.

COACH SANDERSON: Well, I'm obviously very proud of these guys. I think they put forth a tremendous effort throughout the whole year. And a great day today, great day yesterday. And just proud of them and happy for them, more than anything. But, yeah, that's about it.


Q. Your team at least outwardly showed a very business-like attitude through the course of the week here. Can you describe how that approach helped them in the critical matches, especially last night and tonight?
COACH SANDERSON: Well, yeah, I think they remained calm and focused on their goals and that's important. I mean, you want to win. When there's a team race, you know, that obviously adds just additional pressure to individuals. But I thought they did a great job staying focused. And, like I said, I'm really happy for them and proud of them.

Q. As a lot of your guys going through their interviews almost each one of them talked about the importance of their faith. Could you hit on some of the values you look to instill in kids at Penn State?
COACH SANDERSON: I'm just happy and proud of those guys, man. They did a great job this weekend.

Q. Obviously exciting to see so many of the guys reach their goals. But for the ones that don't, how do you kind of approach those conversations?
COACH SANDERSON: I'm incredibly proud of Mark Hall. I think he wrestled a fantastic tournament. Just had a tough match there in the finals against a very, very good wrestler. But Mark was on fire with a lot of bonus points and I'm bummed for him. It hurts.

But he's going to get right back up and keep plugging away and move forward because that's the kind of kid he is.

Q. You guys seem to embody the epitome of team and what team is all about. And when, unfortunately, the loss of 174, but then Bo came out in that exciting -- and he pinned him. And that's how you pick up your teammates and help carry your team to a championship. And, I mean, I think a lot of that falls on you and your coaching staff. Just instilling, you know, you wrestle for your teammate and that kind of thing, we're a team as opposed to individuals.
COACH SANDERSON: Is that a question or a statement?

Q. That was a long statement. But the question is you instill in these guys every day because you talk about the importance of team.
COACH SANDERSON: We have a great group of kids. They come from great families. I wouldn't trade anyone on our staff for anybody. I love them, and I trust them completely. I try to not screw things up, really. But we didn't score any points. I didn't score any points this weekend. It was our team. And they did a great job.

Q. Every tournament has a lot of crazy moments and not just in the finals. What are the ones that are going to stand out to you from this moment or from this tournament?
COACH SANDERSON: Well, I think throughout the whole tournament, I think our guys wrestled well. We started out, two guys, our first two matches we got pinned. I don't know if we really got pinned many times this whole year. But our guys plugged away and came back.

Nick Lee, he did great. I thought Corey Keener, he was wrestling great. He just got pinned. It's wrestling. Sometimes those things happen. He battled hard. I'm super proud of him.

Nick Lee got pinned his first match. Was wrestling great, firing away. I was super proud of the way those guys came out firing. But they just, Nick Lee came back for fifth place.

And today was a big day with Nick Nevills, he was going for seventh and eighth. And Shakur Rasheed was a little disappointed. He's going for seventh and eight. But they sucked it up and got us a couple points to keep us within striking distance today. For that, I'm really proud of those guys. And obviously what happened in the finals, you saw the same thing I saw. So we're happy.

Q. Can you just -- you're pretty stoic throughout the daily grind of it all, but can you just describe the emotion that goes into every day of coaching, the work that you guys have to do to make this all unfold at this particular time of the season?
COACH SANDERSON: It's a good question. I think we're learning as we go. And I think I can do a lot better job as a coach. And we as a staff can continue to improve and figure things out.

But we're here to support our kids and help them reach their goals. It's up to them whether they choose to go take advantage of these opportunities or not. But that's our job to help them understand that. But they did a fantastic job. And I don't know if I answered your question. But we're happy.

Q. Looked like Mark Hall was the first guy out to congratulate Bo. Do you think that says a lot about him being able to do that after his loss, pretty tough loss? How close would you say this team is overall, and how has that manifested itself?
COACH SANDERSON: Mark Hall is a remarkable human being. He's salt of the earth. This whole year when the team needed somebody to step up, he stepped up. And, like I said before, we're super bummed for him because we care about him and we want him to reach his goals. But he had a heck of a tournament and just an incredible year. And he has a lot to be proud of. And he'll only move forward from this point.

But these guys want to win as a team. And like I said before, it adds a lot of, a different feel, a different load on him when they're trying to win as a team as opposed to just individually. And they did a great job of that.

Q. So much of what this tournament's been about is kind of something you said to us back in East Lansing, being able to win the matches that are important when it comes. How do you approach that with the team in terms of your leadership and coaching toward not being able to get caught up in the moment and performing under pressure?
COACH SANDERSON: I think our job as a staff is to believe in these guys and try to help them really to believe in themselves. And I'm not -- as a coach I'm not afraid to lose. That's what we talk to our team about is it's a very important aspect. It's a completely different mentality and focus.

But we have to be the example for our guys, and sometimes that's hard. A lot of times I'm sitting there trying to get myself in the right frame of mind before I see the team. But these guys, they know what they want to do. They're the national champions right there, the guys that went out there and won individual titles, earned All-American status and they did a really a great job. Super happy for them.

Q. Nine out of ten the last two years in the finals. That's just an incredible record. I'm going to say the word (indiscernible) to Bo Nickal, but everyone talks about how fun this program has, how loose they stay. Do you think it helps these guys in the pressure moments?
COACH SANDERSON: Well, I think they need to be themselves, right? And they need to just go be the best they can be. I don't know if we wrestled at our best tonight, but we wrestled, I guess, good enough for the most part.

And I think that's a big piece of being at your best is being able to stay focused and not getting distracted and that's what they did.

Q. A lot of talk coming into the tournament was about (indiscernible) Bo Nickal (indiscernible) bonus points. Only one bonus point through the finals. What is it about him being able to deliver in the biggest spot?
COACH SANDERSON: Bo's dangerous. Ohio State has an incredible team. And they had an awesome tournament. That's a credit to their coaching staff and their team.

Bo is dangerous. He can score at any time really at any position. He didn't even have anything. He was on his back kind of trapped, and realized he couldn't get off his back. And then he threw what he did. So we thought we were in trouble and -- but Bo's great. And he showed that tonight.


FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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