Cael Sanderson, Penn State wrestlers make their case for another year of eligibility

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • Cael Sanderson is the head coach of the Penn State wrestling program.
  • Sanderson believes winter athletes should get another year of college eligibility.
  • Many NCAA winter athletes didn't get to complete their 2019-2020 seasons.
Penn State head wrestling coach Cael Sanderson.

Two days after the NCAA voted to give NCAA Division I spring sports athletes another year of eligibility, but not winter sports athletes, Penn State wrestling coach Cael Sanderson broke his social-media silence.

The coach, who hasn’t tweeted since Oct. 21, 2018, when he congratulated former Nittany Lion David Taylor on his world championship, made his thoughts clear about the NCAA’s decision.

“Winter sport student-athletes who lost the opportunity to compete at the NCAA championships need to be given the option of another year of eligibility,” he said Wednesday. “Although complicated, details can be worked out and it’s the right thing to do in the long run.”

Wrestling season was cut short this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, robbing Nittany Lions Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Jarod Verkleeren, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, Aaron Brooks and Shakur Rasheed of the chance to compete at the NCAA Wrestling Championships in Minneapolis.

Bravo-Young, a sophomore, has also been vocal about the NCAA’s decision, taking to Twitter as soon as the announcement was made Monday night.

“What a joke. We just gave a free year of labor to the NCAA,” he said.

When somebody pointed out that winter sports athletes had gotten to finish most of their seasons, he replied: “NCAAs is what you’re remembered for.”

Rasheed, a sixth-year senior, also voiced his opinion on social media, in a letter he wrote on Instagram.

“Yesterday I found out that winter athletes will not be granted another year. Our year was cut short due to unfortunate circumstances and the whole world is still dealing with this crisis,” he wrote. “The cancelation (sic) is nobody’s fault, what was done had to be done. However, the NCAA got a chance to make it right and give us our year back. This is not granting us ‘another year’ this is simply giving us our full year back that we deserve.

“I am very grateful for this year and the memories I have made but we all go into a year with one main goal and that is to win a National title or All American or simply compete at the NCAA tournament and give it everything we’ve got. While many people dream to have the opportunity to do those things, it was not a dream for us. It was our reality.”

In addition to wrestling, hockey and basketball seasons also were cut short. Those sports were not included in the NCAA’s eligibility decision because many of those athletes had completed all or most of their regular seasons, the council decided.

“At the end we really did coalesce around all of the decisions that we made today,” NCAA Council Chairwoman Grace Calhoun told The Associated Press. “They were strongly supported.”

A petition was started by college athletes, asking the NCAA to give them back one semester and the chance to compete in their championships. As of 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, it had nearly 1,000 signatures.