It was thought to be just a rumor spread like wildfire on the Internet, but it turns out that it's a fact that will likely send shockwaves across the college wrestling community.
Cael Sanderson, who is the only college wrestler to ever finish his career undefeated, has been hired as the next Penn State wrestling coach.
Sanderson will be introduced as the next Penn State coach at a Rec Hall press conference on Monday, according to Penn State sports communications.
The closed-mouth approach the school has been taking was changed Friday.
In fact, it changed in less than an hour. Contacted by the Mirror at around 4:30 p.m., assistant director and wrestling contact Pat Donghia said at that time that he would not comment on Penn State's search to replace Troy Sunderland, who resigned April 4 after 11 years as the program's coach.
About 45 minutes later, Donghia e-mailed the news that Sanderson had been hired at the next coach.
New sheriff in town
Born: Heber City, Utah
Comes from: Iowa State, three seasons, 44-10
Coaching accomplishments: Two national championships; all 10 of his starters qualified for NCAA Championships past three seasons
Wrestling accomplishments: Went 159-0 at Iowa State, where he was a four-time national champion
The wrestling team found out about the time that everybody else did, Hollidaysburg graduate and reshirt sophomore 149-pounder Christian Harr said.
"I think it is phenomenal to have that type of guy in this institution," Harr said. "All of us are really excited to see what he can bring to the table.
"We really didn't want to believe the rumors, but we're pretty relieved that a guy like Cael took the job. We're going to get the best out of everything. It's pretty mindblowing. This changes the face of college wrestling."
The 29-year-old Sanderson has been Iowa State's coach the last three years, posting a 44-10 record, guiding two of his wrestlers to national titles and leading his team to top five finishes at the NCAA Championships all three years, including a runner-up finish his first year. Amazingly, all of his starters have qualified for the NCAA Championships in those three years.
In 2007, he was named National Coach of the Year, National Rookie Coach of the Year and Big 12 Coach of the Year.
As a wrestler at Iowa State, he went 159-0, won four national titles (three at 184 and one at 197), became the only wrestler to ever win four Most Outstanding Wrestler awards at the NCAAs and is the only one to win three Hodge awards, which is college wrestling's version of the Heisman Trophy.
The 2002 graduate captured a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens before becoming a special assistant in the athletic department for two years. He joined the Cyclones' wrestling staff the next year, and he became the head coach for the 2006-07 season.
Getting Sanderson surely came at big cost to Penn State. The Centre Daily Times, citing Iowa public records, reported Friday that Sanderson made $132,500 for the 2008 fiscal year.
The news was hard to take for Iowa State followers, particularly ISU athletic director Jamie Pollard.
"I am extremely saddened for our institution's student-athletes, staff, alums and fans," Pollard said in an e-mail to the media. "It is a difficult day for all Cyclones as we cope with the departure of a truly outstanding and accomplished student and coach.
"Cael's unblemished collegiate record, Olympic glory and promising start as a coach all came while he was representing Iowa State University, and he will forever be recognized as a Cyclone."
Sanderson, who was on campus Thursday, was one of several candidates for the job in Penn State's national search. Edinboro coach Tim Flynn, Maryland coach Kerry McCoy, former Penn State assistant John Hughes and State College-based wrestling camp leader Ken Chertow were among the candidates.
Sanderson, who couldn't be reached for comment, is married, and he and his wife, Kelly, have a 2-year-old son, Tate Stephen. Sanderson's older brother, Cody, is an associate head coach for the Cyclones.
Iowa State tried very hard to keep Cael Sanderson in the fold, Pollard said.
"During the last week, Cael and I talked numerous times, and we had several in-depth and personal discussions about this decision," Pollard said. "Those talks included me asking what, if anything, could we do to keep him at Iowa State.
"I also asked [Iowa State] president [Gregory] Geoffroy, [women's basketball coach] Bill Fennelly and [men's basketball coach] Greg McDermott to reach out to Cael, and they all did so. In the end, Cael said that he appreciated everything Iowa State and our fans had done for him, but he believes winning a national championship will be easier at Penn State.
"I know this has been a very challenging and emotional decision for Cael and his family. I encourage all of our fans to put aside their disappointment and, instead, respect Cael for making a decision that he believes is in the best interest of his family."