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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    By the Numbers: Penn State Under Cael Sanderson

    Cael Sanderson (enter), Carter Storacci (right) and Casey Cunningham (Photos courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)


    Saturday, Penn State wrapped up their ninth national championship since Cael Sanderson arrived in Happy Valley prior to the 2009-10 season. Here are some more fun facts and stats about the Nittany Lions and the Sanderson dynasty.

    Of course, many of these facts couldn't be possible without Jason Bryant's 22NCAA Fan Guide.


    Before Cael's arrival, Penn State had only won one other national title in 1953. Since then, only one other team East of the Mississippi had captured a championship (Michigan State - 1967).

    The national title puts Sanderson ahead of Oklahoma State's Art Griffith for sole possession of third place on the list of national championships per coach at the DI level (9). Next up for Cael to pass is Edward Gallagher (Oklahoma State) with 11. Dan Gable's 15 also seems like an attainable goal.

    Penn State now has ten team trophies (top-4) during the Sanderson era. Before Sanderson, the school had 16. It's safe to say that PSU likely would have added another during the 2020 tournament.

    The Nittany Lions 36.5 point margin of victory over Michigan puts them in a tie for 18th place all-time on that respective list. They are tied with the 2017 Penn State team that routed Ohio State. The team's 40-point win in 2019 is the largest in school history.

    Penn State's five national champions tie the record number of champions in a single season. That mark has been hit only five times. The Nittany Lions have done it twice under Cael (2017 is the other).

    Since 2011, Penn State is now 32-14 in the NCAA finals.

    17 wrestlers have combined to win 32 titles during the Cael era.

    In medal-round matches during Sanderson's tenure, Penn State is now 50-19. One of those 19 includes Kerkvliet's fourth-place finish this year.

    11 wrestlers have won multiple times under Sanderson. Ed Ruth, Zain Retherford, Bo Nickal, and Jason Nolf with three. David Taylor, Quentin Wright, Vincenzo Joseph, Bravo-Young, Lee, Starocci, and Brooks have two.

    The 2012 tournament featured a Penn State wrestler with a #1 seed for the first time under Sanderson. Since then, 21 wrestlers have gotten seeded first at nationals. Only three of those wrestlers failed to win a title that same year (you also have Mark Hall, who was seeded first in 2020).

    Penn State wrestlers have earned All-American honors 75 times since Sanderson got the job. 29 different wrestlers have combined to amass those 75 AA trophies.


    The 2022 NCAA Championships

    The Nittany Lions went 29-7 overall at the 2022 NCAA Championships.

    Of their 29 wins, they earned bonus points in 12 of those wins. 7 majors, 1 tech, 4 falls.

    Those 12 bonus-point wins brought 39.5 points.

    For a second consecutive year, Penn State went perfect in the finals. Last season, they were 4-0, while Saturday night, they were 5-0.

    In head-to-head matches against the other three trophy-winning teams, Penn State went undefeated, at 4-0.

    The 2021-22 Penn State team now featured four two-time NCAA Champions (Bravo-Young, Lee, Starocci, Brooks).

    This year, Penn State went 5-1 in the NCAA semifinals. Heading into the tournament, their record in the semis under Sanderson is 41-6. It now sits at a sparkling 46-7 record.


    Of Penn State's nine qualifiers in 2022. Bravo-Young, Lee, Starocci, and Dean were all seeded #1 and ended up winning their weight class. Brooks wrestled above his seed (#2), winning a title. Greg Kerkvliet (#4) and Brady Berge (#16) equaled their seeds. Only Drew Hildebrandt (#16) and Beau Bartlett (#13) wrestled below their seeds, as both lost in the second consolation round (the round of 24).

    At the 2022 NCAA Championships, Penn State wrestlers outgained their opponents in takedowns earn versus surrendered, 91-23.

    After the 2022 NCAA Championships, here is the tally of Penn State national championships per weight class under Sanderson:

    125: (1)
    133: (2)
    141: (2)
    149: (4)
    157: (3)
    165: (4)
    174: (5)
    184: (7)
    197: (3)
    285: (1)

    With Brooks' win in the 2022 finals, it makes three times in two years that Penn State wrestlers have fallen in the Big Ten finals, only to win a rematch in the NCAA finals (Lee/Starocci in 2021).

    Other Stuff


    For the "They just get the best recruits" crowd. Here are the recruiting rankings for each of Penn State's qualifiers at the 2022 NCAA Championships, along with some commentary.

    The takeaway is that Penn State certainly gets top-notch recruits. They also tend to have those wrestlers maximize their potential. There are examples where higher-ranked recruits didn't pan out, while their Penn State counterparts shined.

    125 - NR (2016) Drew Hildebrandt: Not among the top-100. Transferred from Central Michigan after taking fourth in 2021

    133 - #12 (2018) Roman Bravo-Young: Four of the wrestlers ranked above him did not qualify in 2022.

    141 - #9 (2017) Nick Lee: Even though it was a strong class, six of the wrestlers above him have yet to win a title.

    149 - #7 (2020) Beau Bartlett:

    157 - #6 (2017) Brady Berge: All five above him are multi-time AA's.

    174 - #9 (2019) Carter Starocci: Five of the wrestlers ranked above him did not AA in 2022. Three did not qualify for nationals.

    184 - #2 (2018) Aaron Brooks: Second overall in an absolutely loaded crop of talent.

    197 - #74 (2016) Max Dean: Two-time All-American at Cornell before transferring.

    285 - #1 (2019) Greg Kerkvliet: Originally signed with Ohio State.


    A large part of Penn State's success has been done by successful freshmen. 2022 is the first year since 2015 that the Nittany Lions did not have a freshman earn All-American status. Of course, with Covid eligibility, Starocci, Kerkvliet, and Michael Beard could have three more years of eligibility if they choose to exercise them.

    Penn State has the longest current streak with at least one national champion. They've done so every year, starting with 2011. That is a healthy lead over anyone else in the nation. Minnesota is the only school that's crowned a champion in both 2021 and 2022.

    When Sanderson took over, many expected him to "lock down the borders" in Pennsylvania. Realistically, with the amount of in-state talent available, that's not possible. But, Sanderson has gotten studs from Pennsylvania, along with a handful of other states. Even some non-traditional powers. Here's the list of national titles won by home state for Penn State under Cael.

    PA: (16) Quentin Wright (x2), Ed Ruth (x3), Zain Retherford (x3), Nico Megaludis, Vincenzo Joseph (x2), Jason Nolf (x3), Carter Starocci (x2)

    TX: (3) Bo Nickal (x3)

    OH: (2) David Taylor (x2)

    AZ: (2) Roman Bravo-Young (x2)

    IN: (2) Nick Lee (x2)

    MD: (2) Aaron Brooks (x2)

    NJ: (2) Frank Molinaro, Anthony Cassar

    MI: (1) Max Dean

    MN: (1) Mark Hall

    UT: (1) Matt Brown

    Before Sanderson's arrival, the program had only produced four, four-time All-Americans. After the 2022 tournament, they have 12. We have counted 2020's NWCA All-American honors, which means Nick Lee is the school's lone five-time All-American.

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