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Stine: Penn State Wrestling = Greatest Dynasty in American Sports Today

Penn State wrestling is looking to win another national championship
Photo by Penn State Athletics: Cael Sanderson

Saturday morning makes 10 national championships in the last 12 years for Cael Sanderson and Penn State wrestling.

Think about how incredible that is.

There have been dominant wrestling programs before.

Iowa won 10 out of 11 team championships from 1975-86, including nine in a row from 1978-86 under legendary coach Dan Gable. The Hawkeyes also won eight of the 10 years in the 1990s. Penn State is at that level now, if not above it, and there doesn’t look to be an end in sight.

Sanderson is only 43 years old. It wouldn’t be unthinkable for him to coach another 20 years. If he keeps coaching, there isn’t much reason to think he would want to do it anywhere else. Not when State College is in the exact middle of the state that offers the best high school wrestling in the country.

And that’s scary.

Becausee there isn’t another coach in sports that’s matching Sanderson’s success.

Think how big Alabama football has become under Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide have won six titles under Saban, and he’s going into his 16th season as head coach this fall. But ‘Bama hasn’t won since the 2020 season, and another SEC school has surpassed it.

Georgia football has won the last two years under Kirby Smart, and there could be a dynasty in the making there, but it’s still way too early to tell if it will be anything like Penn State’s run.

Do any of you see Georgia winning 10 national championships in 12 year? That’s what I thought.

Forget about men’s college basketball. There’s way too much parity there. Villanova won two titles in three years in 2016 and 2018, but nobody has even gone back-to-back since Florida did it in 2006-07.

The women’s game was a little different with UConn under Geno Auriemma. The Huskies won 11 national titles in 24 years under Auriemma, including six in eight years. Today, Dawn Staley is building a dynasty with South Carolina. But if the Gamecocks win it all this year, which they are favored to, that will be just its third title under Staley and only it’s second straight.

I say “just” and “only” because, as impressive as any national championship is, Staley and South Carolina have a long way to go to catch up to Sanderson and Penn State.

The NBA is where you could find something that’s getting close to Penn State’s run. The Golden State Warriors have won six of the last years there, but that doesn’t look like that’s going to continue this season. Had LeBron James stayed in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for more than four seasons and stayed healthy, the heat could have maybe done something close Penn State. But Lebron went back to Cleveland, so we’ll never know.

The New England Patriots had a stranglehold on the NFL world for what seemed like forever with Tom Brady, but it took them 17 years to get six titles.

Baseball and hockey have way too much parity for it to even be in consideration.

The question for Penn State wrestling for the near future is, quite simply, how long can this go on?

Not only has Penn State wrestling been winning these NCAA titles, but the difference between first and second place is getting wider every year. Penn State beat Iowa, who finished in second place, by 55 points this weekend, and that was without Penn State even qualifying a 125-pounder for the tournament.

It was the most lopsided NCAA team title won since Oklahoma State won by 70 in 2005.

It looks possible this can at least continue into next year. The team loses Roman Bravo-Young and Max Dean and potentially national champions Carter  Starocci and Aaron Brooks, but it returns a strong core with a couple runners-up in Levi Haines and Greg Kerkvliet, and a couple more promising wrestlers in Beau Bartlett and Alex Facundo. You could probably count on it that most of those guys will be on the podium again next year, and a couple of them will probably be at the top.

Penn State wrestling’s dominance may not be completely unprecedented. Gable’s Iowa teams were at the same level, it not higher.

But in today’s sports world, it just doesn’t get better than it is at the moment.

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