Cael Sanderson picks up 200th career victory at Penn State as No. 1 Nittany Lions roll No. 3 Iowa

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Cael Sanderson’s 200th career victory at Penn State came on a night where the No. 1 Nittany Lions were dominant yet again.

Penn State dismantled No. 3 Iowa, 29-6 as Sanderson’s team (9-0, 6-0 Big Ten) extended its win streak in duals to 53. Penn State hasn’t lost a dual since Jan. 31, 2020 when it lost to Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes (10-2, 5-2) were dealt two losses in the past week, the first against Michigan.

Since Sanderson’s hiring at Penn State in 2009 his wrestlers have won the NCAA team title 10 times. During that same span there have been 83 All-America honorees and 34 national champions. While Sanderson joked earlier in the week that 200 victories at Penn State “just means that I’ve been here a long time,” achieving the feat on the road at Iowa is one more detail to add between these two storied programs.

“What he’s done here is historical,” Aaron Brooks, Penn State’s three-time NCAA champion said this week. “But even then, he doesn’t pay attention to that stuff. He just wrestles, coaches and it comes along.”

The Nittany Lions would have Sanderson’s victory milestone locked up before Brooks even stepped on the mat.

Penn State has now won five of the last six duals against Iowa. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 28-13-2.

Penn State figures to be in line to shatter more records in the coming weeks. The Nittany Lions can secure the program’s 1,000th victory Monday night. Penn State wrestles No. 14 Rutgers (10-4, 3-3) at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. The BJC dual, which has become a marquee event attracting 15,000-plus fans, will feature a throwback theme. Penn State will wear pink and black singlets in honor of the school’s original colors. The dual will air on Big Ten Network.

How Penn State won

Iowa got the start that it needed. Drake Ayala, a 125-pounder, had the home crowd energized early as he dealt freshman Braeden Davis his first loss of the season with a 4-2 decision. The groundwork for an upset was laid, but quickly Penn State reminded many why this group just might be the best of Sanderson’s star-studded teams.

Aaron Nagao followed at 133 pounds with what was nearly a pin but instead became a major decision over Iowa’s Cullan Schriever. Regardless of the ruling, it was a momentum-shifting moment and a nice bounce back for Nagao after being upset last week against Ohio State.

Top-ranked 141-pounder Beau Bartlett then delivered in the most-anticipated match of the night, beating No. 2 Real Woods in a 7-2 decision. With the win, Penn State had already made a statement. This group wasn’t rattled and would roll on to win eight of the 10 matches.

What gave Penn State the edge

The Nittany Lions’ stars delivered once again. Penn State entered the dual with five wrestlers ranked No. 1 in the country and all five — Bartlett, Levi Haines, Carter Starocci, Brooks and Greg Kerkvliet — were victorious. Haines’ 12-0 major decision against Jared Franek was among Penn State’s many highlights.

Starocci, the three-time NCAA champion, extended his win streak to 62 with a 13-5 major decision. Starocci holds the longest active win streak in the country.

Perhaps most important will be what Penn State’s youngest wrestlers take from this experience. The two true freshmen in Davis and 149-pounder Tyler Kasak both now have to figure out how to rebound after a defeat. That will be key moving forward as the postseason nears. It’s certainly new territory after both Davis 14-1 and Kasak 11-2 have been bright spots this season.

Match results (all rankings per InterMat)

  • 125: No. 7 Drake Ayala (Iowa) dec. No. 2 Braeden Davis (Penn State), 4-2; Iowa 3-0
  • 133: No. 6 Aaron Nagao (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 20 Cullan Schriever (Iowa), 11-0; Penn State 4-3
  • 141: No. 1 Beau Bartlett (Penn State) dec. No. 2 Real Woods (Iowa), 7-2; Penn State 7-3
  • 149: No. 12 Caleb Rathjen (Iowa) dec. No. 10 Tyler Kasak (Penn State), 11-8 (sv); Penn State 7-6
  • 157: No. 1 Levi Haines (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 5 Jared Franek (Iowa), 12-0; Penn State 11-6
  • 165: No. 7 Mitchell Mesenbrink (Penn State) dec. No. 6 Mikey Caliendo (Iowa), 12-6; Penn State 14-6
  • 174: No. 1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) maj. dec. No. 7 Patrick Kennedy (Iowa), 13-5; Penn State 18-6
  • 184: No. 6 Bernie Truax (Penn State) maj. dec. Aiden Riggins (Iowa), 8-0; Penn State 22-6
  • 197: No. 1 Aaron Brooks (Penn State) dec. No. 11 Zach Glazier (Iowa), 5-1; Penn State 25-6
  • 285: No. 1 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State). maj. dec. Ben Kueter (Iowa); 9-1; 29-6

(Photo: Vincent Carchietta / USA Today)

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