Cael Sanderson makes his return complete; beats Jake Herbert for World Team berth

Updated: June 11, 2011

By Mike Finn

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — If there was one concern about Cael Sanderson returning to competition after a seven-year hiatus, it may have been whether he had enough “gas” to last the five matches he needed to win in one day in order to win this year’s World Team Trials at 185 pounds.

Cael Sanderson (top) used great positioning to beat Jake Herbert in two separate matches at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Okla. The wins earned the current Penn State coach his first World-level championship since winning a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics. (Photo by Ginger Robinson)

The current Penn State head coach, who had not competed on this level since winning a 2004 gold medal at the Athens Olympics, showed he did indeed have enough energy and knowledge — considering international freestyle rules have changed since 2004 when weights were determined in two days — and defeated 2009 World silver medalist Jake Herbert in two separate matches Saturday night in the Cox Convention Center to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the 2011 Worlds in Turkey this September.

In the first match against Herbert — in the best 2-of-3 Championship Series — Sanderson won 4-1, 2-0 as he scored all four of his points in the final 35 seconds of the first period, then used a low single and defensive counter to score his points in the second period.

In the second match  of the Championship Series, Sanderson prevailed 5-2, 2-0 after first surrendering a takedown to Herbert in the opening seconds of the first period. Good positioning led to a pair of takedowns in the second period.

Overall, Sanderson lost only period on the day — in the second frame of his opening match to Raymond Jordan, who earned a overtime clinch advantage.

This has been quite an impressive year for Sanderson — who turns 32 on June 20 — as the native of Heber City, Utah, and second-year Penn State coach led his Nittany Lions to a team championship at this year’s NCAA tournament in Philadelphia and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla, two nights before he started his comeback in the World Team Trials.

Earlier in the day, Sanderson reached the Championship Series when  he defeated Jon Reader, 4-1, 1-0, in the 185-pound  finals of the Challenge Tournament phase of the World Team Trials, Saturday afternoon.

Cael Sanderson lifted Jon Reader en route to beating his former Iowa State wrestler in the finals of the Challenge Tournament at the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Ginger Robinson)


In beating Reader, who won an NCAA championships at 174 pounds for Iowa State, Sanderson beat someone he coached at Iowa State between 2006-09 before taking the Penn State head job in 2010. In that match, Sanderson used a double to lift Reader off the match 50 seconds into the first period before adding three more points off a gut wrench and pushout. Reader was able to score a takedown with 15 seconds in the first frame but Sanderson held on to win that period.

In the second period of this match, Sanderson scored a takedown off a low single 20 seconds into the frame, then held off a Reader rally that nearly took advantage of Sanderson losing his balance with 35 seconds left before Sanderson held on for the win.


Earlier in the day, Sanderson reached the  finals of the Challenge Tournament when he pinned former Oklahoma State star Chris Pendleton in the second period of their semifinal bout in  Cox Convention  Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Cael Sanderson used this cradle to pin Chris Pendleton in the semifinals of the Challenge Tournament during the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Ginger Robinson)

Sanderson’s fall against Pendleton came with 57 seconds left in the second period when Sanderson found himself on top after a scramble and caught the former Cowboy in a reverse cradle for the pin. Sanderson also won the first period, 3-1, when Sanderson opened that frame with a single and two-point tight waist.

This match came after Sanderson officially returned to the mat at 11:36 a.m. Central Daylight time  in Oklahoma City’s Cox Convention Center. Sanderson actually needed three periods before he defeated former Missouri All-American Raymond Jordan, 4-0, 0-1, 2-0, in the quarterfinals.

Cael Sanderson (right) defeated Raymond Jordan during the quarterfinals of the World Team Trials in Oklahoma City, Okla. (Photo by Ginger Robinson)

Sanderson used his famous low single to catch the heel of Jordan 15 seconds into first period of their bout and added a tight waist to add three more points in the first frame.


In the second period, Sanderson faced a more defensive wrestler in Jordan as the bout went to an overtime clinch. With Jordan’s singlet color being chosen, the former Missouri Tiger needed three seconds after securing Sanderson’s left leg to win the period.


Finally in the third period, Sanderson came out of a scramble with 36 seconds into period for a 1-0 lead, then added another point when he turned a heel pick into an impressive double.




By Mike Finn, WIN Editor