CAMP HILL – Like many wrestling coaches, Cael Sanderson is known mostly as being a competitor and stone-faced when it comes to being in the spotlight. It’s rare to see the successful head coach at Penn State University in a joking mood in public or in front of media members.
The Penn State Coaches Caravan has brought out the lighter side of the 33-year-old while spending time with football coach Bill O’Brien and women’ volleyball coach Russ Rose in the Lancaster and Harrisburg areas on Thursday.
“I’m having fun. I’m just thinking of ways to get at the other coaches out there and give them a hard time,” said Sanderson, who led the Nittany Lions on their third straight national championship in March and is participating in his first PSU caravan tour. “This is all about having fun.”
Heck, Sanderson even admitted to looking up some Chuck Norris jokes on the Internet in attempt to get some laughs out of PSU faithful at the Radisson in Camp Hill Thursday evening. But he didn’t give media members a glimpse of what was to come.
“He doesn’t want to give away his material,” Rose said.
Sanderson even joked about having discussions with O’Brien about a wrestling meet being held at Beaver Stadium.
“If O’Brien would let us do something in the corner of the stadium we’d be there in a heartbeat,” Sanderson joked.
He quickly turned serious though when asked about a possible meet at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions hold all home wrestling meets at Rec Hall, a unique environment for wrestling to be held because of the close atmosphere and loudness levels despite a capacity of 6,600. The 2012-13 season at Rec Hall was sold out for the first time in school history – before a meet was even held this past season.
The Bryce Jordan Center can hold more than 15,000 fans. That doesn’t mean though that Sanderson is jumping at the idea of moving every home meet to the BJC, especially with tickets costing just $6 at Rec Hall. But there is progress on the possibility of wrestling being held there.
“One thing we always kind of thought about as a staff is breaking the attendance record which is about 16,000,” Sanderson said. “ But yeah we’d like to do that.”
Another topic the four-time NCAA champion wrestler is stern about is his beloved sport possibly being removed from the 2020 Olympics. Earlier this year, the IOC recommended that the sport be removed from the games. Later this month, May 24-27, the IOC will meet in St. Petersburg, Russia, to decide which three sports will be narrowed down to be included on that year’s Olympic program. A final vote will be held in September. Sanderson, who won an Olympic gold in 2004, has been one of the top supporters in helping make sure the sport remains. One of the several items he’s done to help the sport survive the latest obstacle is post addresses of IOC members on his website, encouraging fans to flood them with letters of support.
He said no matter where he goes, especially during the caravan tour, he gets approached endlessly about the sport’s survival in this tough time.
“Support is definitely growing and it’s getting down to crunch time here,” he added. “There’s a lot of support out there for wrestling it just has to come together and make sure the voice is heard. ”