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Cael Sanderson is like Professor X. The bald mastermind leader of an incredible team. Cael has done his fair share of managing to get his best athletes in the lineup for as many years as possible. So, it’s now my turn to channel my inner Cael and put together the best possible lineup using athletes from all of his Penn State teams.
125: Nico Megaludis
For my money, Nico Megaludis is the best wrestler to never win a conference title. A national champion, three-time NCAA finalist, career record of 119-20, and never won a Big Ten title. That’s a testament to how good the Big Ten was at 125 and not a knock on Nico at all. Now, here is who Nico beat in his career; Jesse Delgado twice (once by pin), Darian Cruz four times (twice by tech), Gilman three times, Nahshon Garrett, Cory Clark, Alan Waters, Zach Sanders, and Joey Dance.
With Nico’s famous flexibility, athleticism, and defensive skill, I have no idea how anyone ever took him down.
Watch Nico Megaludis beat Thomas Gilman in the 2016 NCAA finals.
133: Andrew Long
While Andrew Long’s career at Penn State only lasted one semester, it was crucial to Cael’s first title. Long took third at NCAAs and pinned both Scott Sentes and Mike Grey. If that’s not enough to convince you how good Long was, at Big Tens that year, he beat Tyler Graff, BJ Futrell, and Ian Paddock. None of them were close matches. That bracket also included Tony Ramos, and David Thorn. Still need proof? Although at 125, Long beat Anthony Robles, Angel Escobedo, Ryan Mango, and Ben Kjar at the 2010 NCAA Championships. Andrew Long, good at wrestling.
141: Nick Lee
The only member of the team still in college, Nick Lee. Although only three non-redshirted years into his career with one NCAA Championships taken away from him, Lee is already a three-time national qualifier, two-time AA, has never taken worse than third at Big Tens, and has a career record of 87-13. Last season Lee was 20-1 while splitting with NCAA #1 seed Luke Pletcher. Meaning Nick Lee very well could have won a national title last season and depending on who returns and at what weight, could very well be the favorite to win this upcoming season.
149: Zain Retherford
Throw out Zain Retherford’s freshman year stats at 141 and only take into account his 149 career stats and you get three undefeated national championships seasons, two Hodge trophies, an 89.25% bonus rate, a 75.28% pen/tech rate, and a 5.22 dominance score. That is quite possibly the best three-year run in the history of college wrestling.
Watch Zain Retherford win his third NCAA title over Ronnie Perry below.
157: Jason Nolf
Two Isaiah Martinez extremely close losses and a John Van Brill injury default are the only blemishes on Jason Nolf’s college record. And those IMar losses came after Nolf had already beaten him that season. Prior to Nolf giving IMar his first college loss, people were legitimately wondering if we were watching the next Cael.
Even after he blew out his knee in the Van Brill match, he managed to beat Michael Kemerer and Hayden Hidlay 6-2 and 16-0 tech fall Micah Jordan. I don’t know what’s more impressive, doing that on a bum knee or his career 85.78% bonus rate and 74.36% pin/tech rate. Everything about Jason Nolf doesn’t make sense. Someone should not be that good at wrestling.
Watch Jason Nolf major Tyler Berger for his 3rd NCAA title below.
165: David Taylor
The single greatest wrestling career in Penn State history, and one of the best in NCAA history. David Taylor really did put on a show while in college. If it wasn’t for Kyle Dake, arguably the second-greatest college wrestler of all time, DT is looking at three national titles and probably three Hodge Trophies. However, he’ll have to settle for two titles and two Hodge Trophies.
What is arguably David Taylor’s most impressive stat is this — he had a total of nine decision victories in his career. None of them were within two points. The two three-point wins came his freshman year to champ and four-time AA Derek St. John and sophomore year to NCAA finalist Brandon Hatchett. Every person who DT only won by decision over, who he also wrestled more than once, he also bonus pointed. That includes: majoring Derek St. John, twice majoring Tyler Caldwell, tech falling Brandon Hatchett, majoring Mike Evans, and pinning and twice majoring Conrad Polz.
It is mind-boggling how good that is.
174: Mark Hall
It’s a shame Mark Hall will only go down as a one-time NCAA champion. If it wasn’t for Zahid Valencia and a global pandemic, Mark Hall is quite possibly looking at four national titles and two undefeated seasons. Despite this, Mark Hall is still a national champion, three-time NCAA finalist, three-time Big Ten champion, and owns a career record of 117-6. All without redshirting. Not too bad.
Watch Mark Hall beat Zahid Valencia in the 2017 NCAA semifinals below.
184: Ed Ruth
Easy Ed. Sometimes Ed Ruth really did make it look so easy. Over 139 college matches, Ruth went 136-3 with a 74.82% bonus rate and pinning or teching over 50% of his opponents. He was up 5-2 on Robert Hamlin with 35 seconds to go in the 2013 NCAA finals, got a takedown, and was like, “You know what? I think I should get a major here.” And then did! Phenomenal stuff.
Watch Ed Ruth avenge one of his three career losses in the 2014 NCAA semifinals below.
197: Bo Nickal
Bo Nickal never lost to someone he didn’t also beat in college. He was 7-2 against Myles Martin and 1-1 against Nate Jackson. After his second loss to Martin in 2017, Bo never lost again. Zero losses despite wrestling Gabe Dean, Kollin Moore three times, Drew Foster, Max Dean, Domenic Abounader, TJ Dudley, Emery Parker, Josh Hokit, and many more.
Bo was also must watch wrestling no matter who he was wrestling for doing things like this:
Watch Bo Nickal defeat Gabe Dean in the 2017 NCAA finals below.
285: Anthony Cassar
Talk about trusting the process. Although a New Jersey state champion his senior year, unranked nationally coming out of high school. Goes 15-8 his redshirt year. Doesn’t compete his second or third year due to injury. Doesn’t start his third year. Fifth year, though? Bumps up to heavyweight and is the national and conference champion.
Anthony Cassar didn’t just win a national title his senior year, he did it over one of the best young heavyweights in recent memory, Gable Steveson, and defeated the one guy who beat him that season, Derek White. Throughout the course of the 2020 season, Casar also majored Jordan Wood, Conan Jennings, Mason Parris, Tate Orndorff, Chase Singletary, and Gannon Gremmel.
Watch Anthony Cassar beat Gable Steveson in the 2019 NCAA semifinals below.