NCAA title makes it perfect for Sanderson

Iowa State star ends with 159-0 career mark

College Wrestling

March 24, 2002|By Luke Broadwater | Luke Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALBANY, N.Y. - The streak is complete. Iowa State's Cael Sanderson is the only perfect wrestler in NCAA history.

At 159-0 with four NCAA titles, Sanderson has done what no man before him could do - never lose.

"Four years is a long time. That's a lot of matches to get ready for," said Sanderson, who moved up this year to 197 pounds. "To finally be finished with it, it's nice."

Sanderson's dominance has been unparalleled. Only twice in his entire career has a wrestler come within a point of him. This season, only two opponents were able to last a full match.

"This is a defining moment in wrestling," said Iowa State head coach Bobby Douglass. "He has lit a fire with his performance. I don't think we realize just what this accomplishment means."

The two-time Academic All-American entered the final to a standing ovation, and after handling Lehigh sophomore Jon Trenge, 12-4, received another one.

This ovation lasted 10 minutes.

"It meant a lot - to have people support you and appreciate you like that," said Sanderson. "Walking out there ... I looked up at the Iowa State fans for a little bit and I almost started crying."

Sanderson won the NCAA Outstanding Wrestler Award for the fourth straight year. No one else has ever won more than two.

In any other year, the spotlight would have been on Fresno State's Stephen Abas (125 pounds), who won his third NCAA title with an 8-4 decision over Iowa's Luke Eustice.

Minnesota won its second consecutive national championship, outpointing second-place Iowa State, 126.5 to 104. The Golden Gophers grabbed seven individual All-American plaques and two individual national titles - by Luke Becker (157) and Jared Lawrence (149).

Navy 141-pounder Mark Conley became a two-time All-American with a sixth-place finish.

Conley, who was literally one second away from reaching the final before giving up a reversal to eventual national champ Aaron Holker (Iowa State) in a 4-3 loss Friday, was also one second away from wrestling for third place.

In a back-and-forth match with Cal Poly's eventual third-place finisher, Cedric Haymon, Conley led the entire third period, 5-4, before Haymon scored a single-leg takedown with 0:01 remaining on the clock.

Oklahoma's Nate Parker then defeated Conley, 8-5, for fifth place.

Wrestlers with Maryland connections who qualified for the nationals were former DeMatha standout Willie Harris (American, 125), Crofton resident Jason Gabrielson (Millersville, 133), Maryland native Jimi Massey (Virginia, 184), former Milford Mill standout Greg Forbes (UNC-Greensboro, 285), the University of Maryland's Brandon York (133) and Jake Stork (184) and Navy's Steve Kovach (285).

Kovach and Massey earned honorable-mention All-American honors, reaching the round of 12 in their respective weight classes. Stork won two matches and reached the round of 16.

(Results, 2d)

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