Not even his closest confidant believed Cael Sanderson would say good-bye to Iowa State.
“As he made his decision, I would talk to him and think he was staying,” said Cody Sanderson, Cael’s older brother, his top assistant with the Cyclones and . “Then I’d talk to him and think he was leaving. He was wavering. I thought in the end that he’d end up sticking around.”
Sanderson is on the job at Penn State, hoping multi-million dollar facilities, a recruiting base that’s second to none and his good name will turn the program into one of wrestling’s elite.
Cody Sanderson is still in Ames, still working out with his now-former wrestlers. Monday he drilled with ISU’s 141-pounder Nick Gallick for the better part of an hour.
ISU’s other full-time assistant, Casey Cunningham, was doing the same thing.
Both men will be joining Cael in State College, Pa., before too long. Odds are, just long enough to touch base with his brother’s successor on what exactly he’s inheriting.
Assuming the cast stays the same, this is a team ready-made that can win it all next season.
That’s what Sanderson is waving at in his rearview mirror. It wasn’t easy for Cody either.
He and his brother’s careers are one in the same. Where Cael goes, Cody falls in line. The Sandersons will be wearing blue, not red, for the forseeable future.
“It took some time but I’m getting more used to the idea,” Cody said. “The whole process has been a little emotional. There’s exciement about going out to Penn State, but I’m going to be sad to leave. I love it here. I’m going to miss the guys on the team and I’m going to miss Ames.”
Cyler Sanderson is a senior-to-be for the Cyclones.
As news of his decision went public, Cael told his group of seniors at ISU it would behoove (my word, not his) them to finish their careers in Ames. Cyler still isn’t sure he wants to be here without his older brothers.
A transfer to Penn State is an option, Cody said.
“He’s waiting right now. He wants to see who the new coach is. That’s going to be a big deal for him.
“Right now he’s thinking and hoping the new coach gets named soon so he can picture it. That’s what I think a lot of these guys are doing. They don’t really have a vision of what is going to happen… I’m sorry that all these guys are in this position.”
Associate Athletic Director David Harris was in the wrestling room Monday afternoon to update the team on the search.
Cody was not a part of that discussion, but said he “would love to see a Cyclone get this job.”
He was teammates at ISU with current Ohio State assistant Joe Heskett and remains a good friend. The decision-makers could do a lot worse, Cody said.
“Joe would do a fine job. I know he’s going to work hard. He loves Iowa State and has a passion for this place. From what I have heard he has contacted some very good candidates for assistant coaches. Whether it is him or somebody else, I think they can pick it up and keep running and get this team to a national championship.”
It could have Cael doing that, if not next season, soon.
Iowa State had a four-man recruiting class coming in that was as good as anybody’s.
“I have no doubt that if he’d stayed here he would have won a national championship. I think next year,” Cody said. “But we’ll never know.”
We know the paycheck will be bigger, but was it the right move professionally?
“I hope it is and it seems like it will be,” Cody said. “We have our work cut out for us. Nothing is going to be given to us. We have to go in and build a team and recruit. We have to be able to convince people that if they come to Penn State they can be champions and can reach their goals.”
“Time will tell if it is a good professional move. It might be a bit before everyone else agrees with us.”