Hail Cael

Zac Reicks

With the dual meet against Nebraska on the line, Iowa State’s career wins record within grasp, and No. 10 Justin Ruiz staring him in the eyes, there was only one thing on Cael Sanderson’s mind as he approached the middle of the mat – what to say to his fans once he had won.

Sanderson had an emotional crowd of 8,119 on their feet at the beginning and end of the match, as well as three or four times in between, voicing their approval of their Cyclone hero.

When Sanderson finally dispatched Ruiz with a 24-9 technical fall win, the crowd stayed on their feet until Sanderson came out to give an impromptu farewell speech for the Hilton faithful.

“It’s hard not to smile and be proud,” Sanderson said. “It’s a great day to be a Cyclone and a senior.”

Among those in attendance was former Cyclone wrestler Mike Land, who watched his record of 150 career wins go down as Sanderson stood victorious for the 151st time. His career record stands at 151-0.

“I’ve tried not to get caught up in streaks and just concentrate on winning the match,” Sanderson said. “I have some great wrestling memories and some day this will be one that I’ll probably remember.”

Sanderson used the strength of four first-period takedowns to gain control of a match that was never in doubt.

The Cyclone standout had Ruiz on his back twice throughout the match but decided not to end things quickly and let ISU fans get their money’s worth. And when the Cael Sanderson takedown clinic was completed, there was only one big challenge left for him to conquer.

“I didn’t want to get up in front of everyone and sound like a big idiot,” Sanderson said.

For a person who shies from the limelight and is reluctant to say much about his extraordinary ability, Sanderson had the crowd hanging on his every word.

He even found time for a little bit of humility as he reluctantly admitted that “my main goal as a freshman was not to get pinned.”

“He does a lot of things [technique wise] that I don’t believe in,” ISU head coach Bobby Douglas said.

“But, I am starting to believe in them now.”

Douglas was even a false prophet for Sanderson when he lectured him on his technique, saying he was sure to get stuck.

“That’s what I heard from Coach Douglas all the time,” Sanderson said. “He said I would get pinned a lot.”

Sanderson and the other Cyclone seniors finished up their careers at Hilton Coliseum in storybook fashion, with each wrestler claiming victory en route to a 24-16 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

The No. 7 Cyclones moved their dual record to 16-5 on the year.

Lost in the hoopla of Sanderson’s big day was Joe Heskett, whose second-period fall over Jason High pushed his career record to 135-9, good enough for fourth best on the ISU charts.

The three time All-American has teamed with Sanderson to give the Cyclones one of the best one-two combinations in the country.

“It’s thunder and lightning,” he said. “Joe brings thunder and Cael brings the lightning.”

Billy Maldonado, Iowa State’s sixth-ranked 149 pounder, went out in style with a workmanlike 10-6 win over Husker Travis Shufelt.

The other Cyclone senior who wrestled, Mark Knauer, won his final home match with a thrilling 13-11 comeback victory at heavyweight.

Down 9-1 late in the first period, Knauer took his opponent down to his back and cut the lead to 9-6 as time expired.

He then opened a 12-9 lead and held on for the two-point win.

But the night truly belonged to Sanderson, who has given fans something to remember in his four years at Iowa State.

While the senior star struggled to catch his breath as he began his farewell speech, Sanderson said what everyone felt that night.

“It’s been a great honor to be part of this tradition and university,” he said. “Tonight really means a lot to me.”