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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling: The All-Cael Sanderson era Team

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

Ever since Cael Sanderson came to Penn State, the wrestling program has easily been the biggest dynasty maybe in the sport’s history.

That got us to thinking, who are the best of the best since Sanderson made his way to State College? Many of them would probably be on the list for the best Penn State wrestlers ever.

Here is our full list, broken down by weight.

125 – Nico Megaludis:
It’s no secret that 125 has been the one weight class that Penn State wrestling  hasn’t dominated, at least in the second half of Sanderson’s PSU career. Had Nick Suriano stayed in a blue and white singlet throughout his career, this capsule might be about him. But Megaludis was outstanding for Penn State. He finished as the runner-up his freshman and sophomore year, and third place his junior year at nationals. After taking a redshirt between his junior and senior year, Megaludis capped his career with a long-awaited national championship in 2016.

133 – Roman Bravo-Young:
Almost from the get-go when he first saw action for Penn State wrestling, fans knew that RBY could be something special. He didn’t redshirt his true freshman season, instead finishing eighth at nationals. He won NCAA gold medals in 2021 and 2022 before finishing his career with a silver medal last season. The weight has also produced three All-Americans in Andrew Long (third place in 2011), Jimmy Gulibon (fifth place in 2015) and Jordan Conaway (sixth place in 2016).
141 – Nick Lee: One of three brothers that came to State College to wrestle, Nick Lee had the most successful career, by far, over Joe and Matt Lee. After having a chance to win in 2020 ripped away when the championships were canceled, Nick Lee went on to win titles in 2021 and 2022. He also took fifth place in his freshman and sophomore seasons in 2018 and 2019. This was a weight that had previously done well with Gulibon and Zain Retherford spending time at the weight.

Speaking of the latter

149 – Zain Retherford:
Retherford became known as the “Zain Train” in his time at Happy Valley. In his time with Penn State wrestling, Retherford compiled a 126-3 record with all three of his losses coming as a freshman. He competed at 141 pounds his first before bumping up to 149 for the rest of his college career. It was at 149 where he netted himself three national titles. Retherford wasn’t the only wrestler that got a national title at the weight in the Cael era. Frank Molinaro won a championship in 2012.
157 – Jason Nolf: Although Levi Haines may be well on his way to a career like Nolf’s was at Penn State, Nolf was the easy choice for the weight class right now. Nolf also had a career much like Retherford’s with just three collegiate losses at 117-3. And also just like Retherford, Nolf picked up three national titles in his sophomre, junior and senior seasons. This weight has had loads of talent through the years with Cyler Sanderson, Cael’s brother, competing there in his senior season in Cael’s first year. David Taylor also spent a year there.

165 – David Taylor: Just like Retherford and Nolf, Taylor is absolutely in the conversation for maybe even the best wrestler in Penn State history. Taylor also had just three losses in his Penn State career, although he picked up just two national championships to go with a pair of silver medals. Taylor may have made an even bigger impact after his collegeiate career where he’s won gold at the U.S. Open three times, the Pan American Championships three times once at the World Cup, and biggest of all, an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
174 – Carter Starocci: There’s been a lot of talent at this wait class for nearly a decade. Starocci’s predecessor, Mark Hall, only got to compete three times in the NCAA Championships due to the start of the pandemic in 2020. He got one gold medal and two silvers in his career, plus three golds and a silver at the Big Ten Championships. But Starocci has topped that so far with three national titles and he still has two years of eligibility left if he wants to use them. Imagine leaving college as a 5-time national champion. It’s possible with Starocci.
184 – Ed Ruth and Aaron Brooks: How do you pick between the two? Ruth and Brooks were two of the best at 184 pounds in their respective eras. So I’m not going to pick one or the other. Ruth ended his time at PSU with four Big Ten championships and three national titles. Brooks is at three golds at both the Big Ten and NCAAs with a chance to make it four for both next season. The weight has been loaded even if you take out Brooks and Ruth. Shakur Rasheed, Bo Nickal, Matt McCutcheon, Quentin Wright, and David Erwin all spent time at 184.
197 – Bo Nickal: Nickal had to be on the team somewhere, and he’s going to slot in at 197, even though he only spent his final year at Penn State at that weight. Of course, he won a gold medal at that weight, and he also won two more at 184 pounds. He also got a silver medal at 174 his freshman year. He finished his collegiate career with a record of 120-3. Even after leaving Penn State as one of the all-time greats, his greatest part of his career may still be ahead of him in UFC.

285 – Anthony Cassar: Even though he had to bide his time throughout his career at both 197 and 285, when Cassar got on the mat, he impressed more often than not. He only really had one season as a full-time starter at heavyweight, but that one season resulted in a national championship in 2019. He was 18-2 as a part-timer at 197 pounds in 2018, but Shakur Rasheed was named the starter. Cassar’s career ended prematurely after wrestling three matches his senior year due to a shoulder injury. Maybe in a couple years we’ll be talking about Greg Kerkvliet here.

PSU all-time Cael Sanderson roster (Wrestled postseasons)
125 – Brad Pataky (2009-11), Nico Megaludis (2011-14, 2015-16), Jordan Conaway (2014-15), Nick Suriano (2016-17), Carson Kuhn (2017-18), Devin Schnupp (2018-19), Brandon Meredith (2019-20), Robert Howard (2020-21), Drew Hildebrandt (2021-22), Gary Steen (2022-23)
133 – Bryan Pearsall (2009-10), Andrew Long (2010-11), Frank Martellotti (2011-12), Jordan Conaway (2012-13, 2015-16), Jimmy Gulibon (2013-15), Triston Law (2016-17), Corey Keener (2017-18), Roman Bravo-Young (2019-23)
141 – Adam Lynch (2009-10), Andrew Alton (2010-11), Bryan Pearsall (2011-13), Zain Retherford (2013-14), Kade Moss (2014-15), Jimmy Gulibon (2015-17), Nick Lee (2017-22), Beau Bartlett (2022-23)
149 – Frank Molinaro (2009-12), Andrew Alton (2012-13), James English (2013-14), Zack Beitz (2014-15), Zain Retherford (2015-18), Brady Berge (2018-19), Jarod Verkleeren (2019-20), Beau Bartlett (2020-22), Shayne Van Ness (2022-23)
157 – Cyler Sanderson (2009-10), David Taylor (2010-11), Dylan Alton (2011-14), Luke Frey (2014-15), Jason Nolf (2015-19), Bo Pipher (2019-20), Brady Berge (2020-22), Levi Haines (2022-23)
165 – Dan Vallimont (2009-10), James Vollrath (2010-11), David Taylor (2011-14), Garrett Hammond (2014-15), Geno Morelli (2015-16), Vincenzo Joseph (2016-20), Joe Lee (2020-21), Creighton Edsell (2021-22), Alex Facundo (2022-23)
174 – Justin Ortega (2009-10), Ed Ruth (2010-12), Matt Brown (2012-15), Bo Nickal (2015-16), Mark Hall (2016-20), Carter Starocci (2020-23)
184 – David Erwin (2009-10), Quentin Wright (2010-12), Ed Ruth (2012-14), Matt McCutcheon (2014-16), Bo Nickal (2016-18), Shakur Rasheed (2018-19), Aaron Brooks (2019-23)
197 – Clay Steadman (2009-10), Nick Ruggear (2010-11), Morgan McIntosh (2011-12, 2013-16), Quentin Wright (2012-13), Matt McCutcheon (2016-17), Shakur Rasheed (2017-18, 2019-20), Bo Nickal (2018-19), Michael Beard (2020-21), Max Dean (2021-23)
285 – Cameron Wade (2009-12), Jimmy Lawson (2012-13, 2014-15), Jon Gingrich (2013-14), Nick Nevills (2015-18), Anthony Cassar (2018-19), Seth Nevills (2019-20), Greg Kerkvliet (2020-23)

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