Cael Sanderson was the most successful college wrestler ever at Iowa State, claiming four national titles, going undefeated throughout his career and later winning a gold medal.
He had plenty of success against Iowa wrestlers in college, but as a coach at Iowa State and Penn State, he was 0-5 against the Hawkeyes going into Sunday's match against Iowa.
Sanderson finally got the monkey off of his back with a 22-12 win over the Hawkeyes before a sellout crowd at Rec Hall. Sanderson, however, didn't look at the win as a personal accomplishment.
"It certainly feels good," he said. "It feels a lot better than when we lose. I don't take coaching personally too much anymore. Early in my career, I did, and that makes the job and your ability to do a good job more difficult.
"I wasn't out there wrestling. It will be a highlight of the dual- meet season. It's nice. As a coach, I hate losing. It's just something that I love to win."
While the fans and media put more of an emphasis on the Iowa match, and even some of the wrestlers will admit to that, Sanderson says he tries not to put too much weight on it.
"When you're wrestling a team that has had the success that they have, it's hard not to put a little emphasis on it," Sanderson said, "whether you want to or not. The kids know when it's a big match and when it's not as big of a match.
"We try to be real consistent in what we're doing, even though the bigger matches everyone knows, naturally, are more important."
Adding to the pressure was a crowd hoping to see the Lions finally beat the Hawkeyes. Many thought that would happen last year, but Iowa played spoiler with a 22-13 win. The Lions, however, later won the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Championships.
"We look at it as an opportunity," he said. "We had 6,700 people here, and you've got to love that. When you step out on the mat, it's got to be like you're on top of the world. Instead of looking at it as a pressure situation, you should look at it as a competitor's dream. When you get a takedown, the whole house lights up and the roof shakes. Remembering that is really important.
"It's one of the reasons kids come to Penn State, so they can wrestle in front of a crowd like this. It seems like our guys have more pressure wrestling here than they do anywhere else - nationals, Big Tens, any big dual on the road."
Thomas is stacked
The Thomas Chevrolet Tournament is always competitive and acts as a mini preview to the Southwest Regional Tournament. This year's tournament should be even more competitive.
The tournament, which starts Friday at Bedford High School, will be a showcase of the top teams in the area. Bedford and Chestnut Ridge, the two top teams in the Mirror rankings, will duke it out for the team title with fourth-ranked Huntingdon and fifth-ranked Claysburg-Kimmel.
Add Somerset, which Ridge rallied to beat to win the Richland Duals, North Star, Berlin Brothersvalley, Conemaugh Township and West Branch, just to name a few, and the depth of the tournament grows more.
Todd Irwin can be reached at 946-7464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be followed on Twitter at ToddIrwin1.