In year two, probably at least a year earlier than many expected, Cael Sanderson coached the Penn State wrestling team to a national championship.
But as the coach said in his season-opening press conference on Monday: “Last year is last year.”
The Nittany Lions, who open their season Thursday with an intrasquad dual, enter the season as the favorite to win another national title. Though they return four wrestlers who placed in the top three in their respective classes at nationals last March in Philadelphia, Sanderson said the team doesn’t feel pressure.
“We have a great chance this year to have a very successful season,” said Sanderson, a college wrestling legend in his third year coaching Penn State. “As long as our guys continue to attack with the same attitude and passion that they have in the past, we’re gonna have a lot of fun.”
Quentin Wright, who capped off his 21-6 season with a national championship in the 184-pound weight class last year, said the Penn State wrestlers have targets on their backs. They will compete in a tough Big Ten conference once again. Iowa enters the season No. 2 and Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Ohio State are all ranked in the top 10.
“Everybody wants to beat the Penn State wrestlers,” said Wright, one of three Lions with a No. 1 preseason ranking his respective weight class. David Taylor and Frank Molinaro are the others. “They’re going to be shooting for us but we’re going to be shooting back.”