PHILADELPHIA — Cael Sanderson's resume would seemingly be at the top of any pile of prospective U.S. National Wrestling Team coaches.
Maybe it was — Sanderson on Tuesday stopped short of saying Team USA offered him the job former national coach Zeke Jones left earlier this year. But it's not a job for the Penn State wrestling coach and Olympic gold medalist. At least not now.
“It's really not that appealing at this time,” Sanderson said during a Coaches Caravan stop in King of Prussia. “Maybe down the road or something, when they get rid of me at Penn State, it would be an option. But in the meantime, I love what I'm doing here.”
Sanderson — who's coached the Nittany Lions to four straight NCAA team championships — did say that Team USA reached out to him and other coaches from top collegiate wrestling programs shortly after Jones stepped down to take the head coaching job at Arizona State. Rich Bender, USA Wrestling's executive director phoned Sanderson and college wrestling's top coaches a few times “ to pick their brains on what direction and what they should go.”
“I spoke to those guys a few times but not about (taking) the job, actually,” Sanderson said.
USA Wrestling hired Bruce Burnett on May 6. Burnett had previously coached Team USA from 1993 to 2000. During his tenure, the U.S. won World Team titles in men's freestyle in 1993 and 1995 and earned the most medals during the 1996 Olympics.
For now, Sanderson is focused on continuing Penn State's recent run of excellence at the collegiate level.
“It's a lot different kind of a job,” Sanderson said. “You don't get to spend the whole year with your athletes. It's a couple months a year type of thing. So I really enjoy the college scene because you get to recruit your guys and you spend all year with them. It's a little different. It's a different system, a different structure.”
NLWC gets better with additions: Sanderson can still affect the national landscape of the sport, however.
He works hands on with the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club, a regional training stable that has gotten considerably stronger over the last few months thanks to a few familiar faces.
Former Penn State stars David Taylor and Ed Ruth didn't wait long to make their post-collegiate plans known. Each signed with the NLWC shortly after March's NCAA tournament in which Taylor won his second title at 165 pounds and Ruth his third overall and second at 184. In addition, another Penn State standout returned to Sanderson's stable recently.
Four-time All-American and 2012 149-pound NCAA champion Frank Molinaro left his assistant coaching job at Rutgers in order to train with the NLWC. Taylor, Ruth and Molinaro all have the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in their sights.
“All three of them are knocking on the door. They're right there,” Sanderson said. “It's just a matter of making the adjustment to the international style and you're also competing at a higher level obviously so they've got to keep getting better. A lot of that is going to come from competing overseas. … All three of them are good enough to make the team and to win medals for the United States.”
And the trio of former Penn State stars haven't taken much time off lately. Each competed at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas in April. Taylor finished second at 74 kilograms while Ruth and Molinaro were third and fourth at 86 and 65 kilograms, respectively. Their NLWC teammate and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jake Varner won the 97-kilogram weight class.
“We've got a great club right now. It's fun to be in there. The practices are amazing. The credentials and there are a lot of national titles training in the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club right now.”
Nittany Lions on the mend: A handful of Penn State wrestlers are recovering from offseason surgeries.
Sanderson said 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh underwent elbow surgery following the NCAA tournament while 157-pounder Dylan Alton had shoulder surgery. Heavyweight Jimmy Lawson, who was hurt in the dual against Northwestern, had knee surgery. Heavyweight Jon Gingrich suffered a knee injury during the NCAA tournament and has started to work out recently, Sanderson said.
Andrew Alton, who injured his shoulder shortly after his return from 2013 shoulder surgery, had to have his other shoulder surgically repaired before the Big Ten tournament. The Alton twins will have had both of their shoulders operated on when next season begins.
“Our guys were sort of beat up this year,” Sanderson said. “It was kind of a rough year as far as injuries are concerned so we've got to get everybody back and get them to 100 percent. Then we'll start rolling again.”
No decision on Megaludis: Nico Megaludis still has a redshirt year available. Penn State has a logjam at the lighter weights with sophomore Jimmy Gulibon and junior Jordan Conaway looking to get into the lineup.
Sanderson has talked in the past about maximizing his lineup's potential and redshirting Megaludis — a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA runner-up at 125 pounds — could allow Conaway to re-enter the lineup. Conaway showed promise as a redshirt freshman in 2013 coming just one win shy of All-America status at 133. Both he and Gulibon have used redshirt years already.
Still, Sanderson said he is unsure of what he and his assistants will do.
“No final decisions have been made,” Sanderson said of a possible redshirt year for Megaludis. “We're going to figure that out as we get closer to the season.”
BJC dual looks hopeful: Penn State's dual against Pittsburgh at the Bryce Jordan Center last year was a hit.
The Nittany Lions set an NCAA attendance record when an announced 15,996 fans watched the Nittany Lions beat the Panthers 28-9. Another dual at the bigger venue could be on tap for next season.
Sanderson said no schedule has been finalized but he is hopeful Penn State can make it happen again.
“It went very well last year and we probably will do the same thing,” Sanderson said. “Our demand was real high last year with Ed and David being seniors and that class that we had, and that team that we had, so we have to decide if it's the right thing for the program. But we want to give everyone a chance to watch the team because we're going to be pretty darn good next year also.