Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Penn State Wrestling

Smeltzer: Penn State Should Build a Statue of Wrestling Coach Cael Sanderson When he Retires

Penn State Wrestling
Photo by Penn State Wrestling: Cael Sanderson

It’s impossible to go to a Penn State wrestling match without seeing one of the University’s most famous landmarks.

The Nittany Lion Shrine” is a staple of University Park. It’s something that many people don’t want to leave State College without seeing, regardless of how much they care about Penn State wrestling or any PSU sport, for that matter.

There should be another statue close in proximity to the Nittany Lion Shrine one day. That statue would be of Cael Sanderson.

Initially, I debated writing this column. Not because of the premise since I strongly believe what I’m writing but rather because of the timing. Sanderson’s only 44 years old, and I don’t think it’s necessary for Penn State to commission a statue until he retires. It feels like that day is far off but it’s worth noting that Dan Gable, now the only coach with more national titles than Sanderson, retired at 48.

So why not write this column now?

Another thing that made me hesitant was the inevitably that any time the words “Penn State” and “statue” are brought up in the same sentence, many fans will talk about— or at least think about— whether Joe Paterno’s statue should return.

I hope people don’t use this column as an excuse to debate that, but I don’t rule the world, so I won’t worry too much about it.

Now, back to wrestling.

With Penn State winning its 11th national title on 13 seasons this past weekend, Gable’s the only coach with more national titles than Sanderson (Oklahoma State legend Ed Gallagher is tied with 11, but the way Penn State is going, that shouldn’t last long).

There are a lot of parallels between Gable and Sanderson. Both wrestled at Iowa State, and there are people who believe that each had the greatest college career of all time (six national titles and one loss between them). Both proceeded to become all-time great coaches at schools that weren’t their alma mater but rather in the Big Ten. Gable became a coaching legend at Iowa State’s No. 1 rival, Iowa. Sanderson was Iowa State’s head coach for three seasons before leaving for Happy Valley.

In short, Iowa State could be the premier wrestling school if things had worked out differently. Sorry, Cyclones fans.

There are some things in wrestling that Gable’s done and Sanderson hasn’t.

In freestyle, Gable won a World Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal.

Sanderson has Olympic Gold, but no World Championships. That’s all in the past.

What Sanderson has a chance to do now is surpass Gable’s coaching record of 15 national titles. He needs to win five more to accomplish that feat, and with any other program, that’d take awhile.

But Penn State wrestling isn’t like any other program, and right now, there’s no reason to believe Sanderson won’t pass Gable before he turns 50.

What Gable did in coaching earned him a statue outside Carver-Hawkeye arena, the only one around that venue.

Gable deserved that honor, and Sanderson deserves to have the same, with the project commencing once he retires.

There shouldn’t be any Penn State fans questioning why Sanderson would be deserving, but I’ll briefly plead my case. At worst, he’s the second best wrestling coach of all time, and if he sticks around another decade, he’ll be the undisputed king. He did all of this after winning four national championships and never losing a match, something that was never done before and hasn’t been equaled more than two decades later.

The best analogy I can think of is imagining what it would look like if Tom Brady got into coaching after his pro career and became Bill Belichick.

People like this don’t come along often in any sport, and Penn State has one of them.

So, yes, Cael Sanderson deserves a statue.

Now, there are a few things Penn State would have to figure out if it uses common sense and decides to commission one when Sanderson retires.

It would have to figure out where to put the statue.

If Penn State can figure out a space for it around Rec Hall, then that would be an ideal place.

If not, somewhere outside Penn State wrestling’s second home, the Bryce Jordan Center, would work, too.

Another question, and perhaps a more interesting one, is what the statue would look like? There are a few options here. It’s be pretty cool to have a statue commemorating Sanderson’s reaction to what many feel is the greatest moment in Penn State wrestling history: Bo Nickal pinning Ohio State’s Myles Martin to win the individual national title and seal the 2018 team title for Penn State.

This would make for a great statue that would also  honor Nickal, a Penn State legend in his own right.

But I’d prefer is Sanderson statue is of him and only him, similar to Gable’s.

Sanderson will coach for as long as he wants, but even he can’t do it forever. When the day comes where he decides it’s time to step away, Penn State should start the statue-building process.

More from Nittany Sports Now

Penn State Wrestling

0 For the past few weeks, plenty of wrestling fans have loed forward to the possibility of Penn State legend Carter Starocci competing against...

Penn State Wrestling

0 Bo Nickal hadn’t fought in than nine months but he picked up right where he left off. The Penn State wrestling legend who...

Penn State Wrestling

0 Penn State wrestling has lost a commitment from its 2024 Class. Mason Gibson, a star at Bishop McCourt who committed to Penn State...

Penn State Wrestling

0 Penn State wrestling legend David Taylor hasn’t had a chance to defend his Olympic gold medal yet. To make it to Paris, Taylor must...