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This week, TheMat.com will move to the USOC platform, with a new look, new functionality, but with the same favorite features....

Terry Shockley named Chairman of the Board of Governors of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame

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Cael Sanderson continues to impress with dominance and class



The Cael Sanderson saga continues, as the third perfect season is put to bed. The greatest college wrestler of all time seems to thrive, in spite of the pressure of media attention and fan expections, in spite of the obstacles that have tripped so many talented stars in the past. For the record, Cael Sanderson of Iowa State has now won three straight NCAA titles at 184 pounds. All three years, he has been named Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA Championships. Sanderson has won a record 119 straight college matches, and has still never lost a college bout. Cael Sanderson is truly amazing. And Cael Sanderson says he still enjoys wrestling. He says he can handle the questions from the media about the streak. He is fully aware of the efforts by his opponents to make history by beating him. He knows about the challenges of motivating himself to continue to excel. "Now is time to go on to freestyle," said Sanderson. "It's all fun for me. It's not like I'm stressed out. It's just a little different. I enjoy wrestling. I love the big tournaments, the big crowds, the tight team races. It's awesome to have the opportunity to perform in that setting." And perform he did. Sanderson scored two technical falls, a pin and a major decision in his four matches leading up into the finals. The line scores are almost unbelievable. 24-9, pin in 1:37, 21-6, 21-7. He then dispatched Daniel Cormier of Oklahoma State in the NCAA gold medal match, a close 8-4 match by Sanderson standards. "My goal was to get the first takedown and ride some of his conditioning out of him," said Sanderson. "That is my goal any time I wrestle him." Cormier, a talented and motivated star with a great international future, has done the best job of keeping Sanderson in close matches. Most times, Sanderson gets his flow going, and the points come like water from a tap. In this match, Cormier actually closed the score to 5-4 in the third period with a takedown, before Sanderson executed a slick reversal and rode Cormier out for the rest of the match. Even in victory, it is hard to tell if Sanderson is truly enjoying the experience. Perhaps one of the reasons he is so spectacular is that he quickly moves past each achievement, and moves on to the next challenge. "I have been looking forward to relaxing for awhile now," said Sanderson. "I have to look back and look at what I have to improve on. It's time to get ready for next year already. Mentally, this year was more difficult. It was a little different approach. It's easy to go out there with no pressure and have fun." The pressure comes from the constant attention that is now part of Cael Sanderson's life. The endless requests for interviews. The desire of every kid in the crowd to get his signature. The lure of distraction, the things that stop a superstar from doing the things that made him a superstar. Coach Bobby Douglas told the media before the tournament that he worried that Cael might be getting tight because of all the attention. Cael's performance still says that he can handle it. When asked how he will deal with the additional pressure next year as he tries to close out an undefeated career, Sanderson is confident in himself. "This year was good practice for next year," he said. "Things will be challenging. The opponents will keep getting better. That's why I have to improve and have fun." THE STREAK, the thing that people always want to talk about, does not seem to faze him yet. The media keeps asking him about Dan Gable, the man whose consecutive win record Sanderson snapped in January, and about how Gable let it get to him before he lost his famous bout to Larry Owings. Everyone wants to know how Sanderson deals with THE STREAK. "I put it in the back of my mind," says Sanderson. "I don't think about it much. I don't worry about it." Sanderson also has great faith in his coach, Bobby Douglas, who helps him deal with being wrestling's most famous college athlete since Gable. "He has been doing a lot for me," said Sanderson. "He helps me relax. He keeps me confident. He makes sure I am prepared." Sanderson also has another focus. He's like to win a NCAA title with his team, and for his coach. The Cyclones have gotten close during Sanderson's years. Next year will be his last chance to be part of a championship team. "I expect our team to be tough next year," said Sanderson."We have some tranfers who will fit in nicely. We have some good guys returning. Sure, we lose some seniors, but everybody does. We'll be in a better position to make a run for it. Last year, we got beaten on the last day. I'd like to win one for coach Douglas." And, ultimately, for Sanderson, wrestling has to remain his passion, the thing that he loves to do and provides him pleasure. "I love the sport," said Sanderson. "It's hard not to have a good time. When I am on the mat, that's when the fun begins." Three down, one to go.
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