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March 23, 2019

Bo Nickal

Cael Sanderson

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

197 pounds

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by head coach Cael Sanderson and senior Bo Nickal. Coach, an opening statement. Three individual national champions tonight, talk about those guys and what they did well tonight to secure the national championship for you guys.

COACH SANDERSON: I'll just say we're very happy and proud of this team. Some great competition individually and team-wise. And so being able to win a national championship is very special and something that we're excited about.

We're also excited about the future, happy that our seniors got to go out on top. And that's something that's important to us. And we know we've had some really special guys, guys like Bo and Jason, both three-time national champs, really, really just special, special people, special kids and super happy and proud of them.


Q. Cael, talking about of all the national champions you've had since you've been there, what makes Bo and Jason so special though?
COACH SANDERSON: I think they're both just all in. They do everything right. I think that pays off in big moments like this. They can relax and just know that they're ready and know that they've done everything to prepare for the moment. And there's a certain calmness that comes with being prepared.

Obviously just incredible competitors, two of the best to ever step on a college mat. I believe that 100 percent. And that says it all right there.

Yeah, we're going to miss them, but more than that I'm excited for them and their future and them just grateful for the four years we had with them, or five, I guess. Took you five years to graduate, right?

BO NICKAL: We'll see.

COACH SANDERSON: Just kidding.

Q. Cael, this was sort of like New York City, a lot of ups but a little bittersweet with Vincenzo and Mark. And how you console those guys?
COACH SANDERSON: Your heart is always with the guys that don't reach their goals. We had other guys on our team that didn't reach their goals, and it's painful. But again this is just sport. And it's the intent and the purpose is to prepare you for life.

And sometimes as painful as it is, it can be a great blessing to you moving forward in your life. But you want to see all your guys be happy, just like everybody else. Losing really -- I can't think of a better word than sucks -- but losing sucks. I feel bad for our opponent and other people, too, when they lose because I hate it so much.

I hate to see anybody lose. But that's part of the fun of competing is seeing who can be the best on this weekend. It doesn't really matter until you show up here. And that's why it's special to win a third national title because the best wrestlers don't always win. We see that; that the best teams don't always win. That's why I think this one was special.

Q. You were saying that winning the championship before the Finals, the team championship allowed your wrestlers to relax a little bit. Was that a good thing or a bad thing?
COACH SANDERSON: I don't know. I don't know. I like when they have the edge a little bit and there's a little extra pressure. I think with the right mindset, that just heightens the nerves a little bit and increases focus a little bit.

Again, we all have the choice and the opportunity to go out there and take advantage of every second we have on the mat regardless of the circumstances. So you can't blame anything other than ourselves. And I think our guys wrestled well.

I think Mark Hall just wrestled a really good kid. They've gone back and forth, two of the best wrestlers in the country at any weight, no doubt about it.

Vincenzo, I thought he wrestled a great tournament and just got beat. No doubt about it. And Anthony Cassar, incredible story, I didn't list him as a senior yet because we're working on him still.

Q. Bo, on what platform will you have your hand raised on next? Will it be wrestling, MMA, boxing? You have a mean right hook? What do you think?
BO NICKAL: Actually this entire time I've been watching boxing on the TV. We'll see. I might transition.

[ Laughter.]

No, I'm wrestling for a while now. I'm planning on competing here this summer in the World Championships in 2019 and then Tokyo in 2020.

Q. Bo, they put you last match of the night, kind of the spotlight match. And just your thoughts on that, getting a chance to be the capper. You won with a strong closing performance there.
BO NICKAL: I think that's exciting for me. The bad part is I don't get to relax and watch my teammates. That's something, I do enjoy watching them. I have to just sit there and relax a little bit more and not get so into the matches.

But I like being the last match. It's something that's exciting for me and it's just fun. Get to feel a little more pressure and a little more hype around it. That's something I enjoy.

Q. You and Jason came into Penn State together. You're leaving Penn State together. You both etched your name into history, becoming three time national champions. Can you talk about the journey you and Jason have taken in the last five years?
BO NICKAL: It's really been blessing after blessing. Since the first time I stepped foot on campus it's been incredible. And there's so many people that have just put so much time and effort and energy into me -- and my coaches my trainers and countless others. And I'm incredibly grateful for it.

And being able to go through it with a guy like Jason Nolf is something that's amazing and a true blessing. And that's a guy I know I can count on, and I know we're going to be friends for a long time to come.

Q. I'd like to take you back to the 2014-'15 season. That was the year you redshirted these guys plus Megaludis and Zane. Did you need that year for this year to happen because people say, why did you need those guys to end a streak?
COACH SANDERSON: I don't know. That was the thought. And it worked out. You look back and you think, if we would have done this or that, maybe we could have won that year. So who knows. I don't know.

I mean, what happened is we're comfortable and happy with the way things have turned out. And I was able to create a wave to roll through. And now the exciting part is creating another wave. That's what it's all about.

Q. Remember that year [inaudible]?
BO NICKAL: Yeah, I remember that year. I got beat up a lot by some of the older guys, Matt Brown in particular. I think my neck hasn't been the same since then because he pulled on it a lot. But that made me a lot better. I think that it was something that really helped me grow. And I've learned a lot about wrestling, about life.

And that's the year that I'm very grateful for. It was a tough year because I took some lumps. But I really feel like it made me a lot tougher and grittier, not only in competition but in practice, learning, like, not to give up positions and to just be able to wrestle through everything. And I think that, moving forward, that's something that I'm very grateful for and I feel like it's kind of a part of my personality now.

Q. Bo, how quickly do you jump into freestyle? Tokyo is real soon. Would you consider wrestling in Madison Square Garden in May in that match against the freestyle guys? And have you determined your international weight class for the Olympic run?
BO NICKAL: Well, tonight's Saturday. So I'll probably take Sunday off and get back on it Monday. And the other questions, I don't even know. I have no idea.

Q. Cael, back in 2011, when you won your first title did you ever envision going on a run like this? I know 10 years ago you said you were brought here to contend for titles. Obviously you've done more than that. Did you think this was in the cards?
COACH SANDERSON: I think you just have to believe in what you're doing. I think we believe that we're going to be successful and win. And I think we're not satisfied right now. And you lay in bed at night, each one of these tournaments thinking these are things we can do better, and things we need to maybe reinforce or -- that's a great thing about a national tournament and facing great competition like we did is that it really reinforces things that we can improve on.

And we just want to keep improving and getting better. And if we can keep winning that would be fine with me. It's not about winning; it's about getting the best team we can get and doing the best we can and just enjoying the experience. Our job as coaches is just to support these guys and help them reach their goals.


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