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Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Cael Sanderson

The most dominant collegiate athlete of all time? I've followed him, watched him, studied him...I don't think there's any doubt. I realize that most people don't follow college wrestling, but Cael Sanderson of Iowa State University grabbed the spotlight as he finished his college wrestling career with 159 wins, zero losses, four national titles, and four NCAA Championships Outstanding Wrestler awards. The Des Moines Register has a nice summary of Cael's career. What amazed me most about Sanderson was how much he improved each year, especially from his junior year to his senior year. I think about it and I'm still thinking that I've imagined the whole thing, but just when I didn't think a guy could get any better, he proves me wrong. Is the guy unbeatable? In wrestling, nobody is unbeatable - even the great Dan Gable and Alexander Karelin had their long unbeaten streaks ended. I'm guessing that to beat Cael Sanderson you'll have to be either incredibly strong (which Cael is not) or super funky. (For those not familiar with wrestling lingo, "funky" usually refers to somebody with an unorthodox style. When I think "super funky", I think of Nick Flach and, especially, of Ben Shane, a guy from my hometown that could pull off more offensive moves from his back than anybody I've ever seen.) Now that Cael has finished his unbelievable college career, the pressure on him will change. Not only are we looking for him to dominate in freestyle wrestling, but we are looking for him to carry the torch for a sport that really needs more exposure. I'm sure Cael's public speaking ability will improve (he's very modest to the point of being shy) and he'll feel more comfortable in that role. I think he puts more pressure on himself than most of us can even imagine. The great ones often do that...

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