Sanderson captures third national title

Wesley Griffin

At the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Iowa City, ISU wrestler Cael Sanderson won his third national title at 184 and was also named Outstanding Wrestler for the third consecutive year.

The junior won his championship by defeating third-ranked Daniel Cormier of Oklahoma State. Sanderson earned an 8-4 decision to close the season at 40-0, bringing his career record to 119-0.

The Cyclones finished sixth in the team standings with 66.5 points. Minnesota ended Iowa’s six year reign as champs by totaling 138.5 points to outdistance the Hawks, who finished second with 125.5 points.

Sanderson started his title quest by winning a technical fall over Kyle Hanson of Northern Iowa and then pinning Jeremy Wilson of Portland State in 1:37. Sanderson then won again by technical fall of Iowa’s Jessman Smith and won a major decision over Victor Sveda of Indiana to get into the championship match against Cormier.

“This year was a good practice for next year.” Sanderson said. “Things should get easier next year. I’m not necessarily talking about the matches. The guys are always getting better so that is why I need to improve.”

The Cyclones’ other finalist was Joe Heskett, who took second place at 165 for the second straight year after being defeated in overtime by Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin. Pritzlaff also beat Heskett in overtime at last year’s national tournament.

Heskett started his way through the bracket by winning a tie-breaker against Noel Thompson of Hofstra. Heskett continued his trek by winning decisions over Denis Alampiev of American and Chris Martin of Virginia Tech. Heskett then won a close match of 3-1 over Brad Pike of Minnesota to face Pritzlaff.

“I know Joe’s disappointed that he lost, but he has worked hard,” ISU assistant coach Thom Ortiz said. “Luckily, he is a junior and now he can get ready for freestyle and for next year.”

The Cyclones came close to having four more All-Americans with Matt Azevedo, Billy Maldonado, Cole Sanderson and Zach Thompson. The four of them all bowed out of the tournament, one match shy of earning All-American status.

The tournament brought the end to four seniors’ wrestling careers at Iowa State. Azevedo, Cole Sanderson, Perry Parks and Thompson all graduate.

“The seniors will be missed,” Ortiz said. “There were some good guys who were great leaders.”

Azevedo and Thompson both lost to Big 12 opponents in close matches. Azevedo lost to Witt Durden of Oklahoma 5-4, and Thompson lost to Brad Vering of Nebraska 2-1.

Cole Sanderson was taken out of the competition by Yoshi Nakamura of Pennsylvania, losing a major decision. Parks ended his career with a close match against Ryan Lange of Purdue 3-1.

Heavyweight Mark Knauer and 141-pounder Zach Roberson did well in the tournament showing that things are looking good for next season.

“We are going to be back in the hunt for the title next year,” Ortiz said. “We have quite a few redshirts and they were in attendance, and hopefully learn from mistakes. Hopefully, they will follow Cael and Joe’s leadership and we will be in the top five next year.”

Although Cael Sanderson also looks forward to next season, he has other plans until then. Sanderson said that next year he is expecting the Cyclones to be tough with transfers and other wrestlers who have good experience. Sanderson also thinks it will be hard to replace the seniors of this year’s team.

“Our ultimate goal is to win the team title,” Sanderson said. “Being beat on the last day last year was tough. Joe and I would like to win a team title for Coach Douglas. I’ve been looking forward to relaxing, it is time to go into freestyle and it is just all fun. I really enjoy wrestling, I love tournament crowds and tight team races. I love this sport, it’s hard for me not to.”

Ortiz said that the team expected to do better and will waste little time to try and do better next year.

“We will have to go to work on Monday to get ready for next year,” Ortiz said.