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Penn State wrestling looks to break decade-long drought at Big Ten Championships

Cael Sanderson has largely run roughshod over the Big Ten for the better part of the last decade. But there is one postseason feat that Penn State wrestling hasn’t achieved in over 10 years. Can the Nittany Lions get it done this weekend?



Penn State wrestling, Cael Sanderson, Big Ten Championships
(From left) Penn State wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, associate head coach Cody Sanderson and assistant coach Jimmy Kennedy react during a dual meet against Ohio State on Feb. 2, 2024, in State College, Pa. The Nittany Lions won, 28-9.

Penn State wrestling will head to College Park, Maryland, this weekend for the Big Ten Championships. The Nittany Lions feature plenty of top-ranked wrestlers within the field and are heavy favorites. While Cael Sanderson has largely run roughshod over the Big Ten for the better part of the last decade, there is one postseason feat that Penn State hasn’t achieved in over 10 years. Sanderson and Penn State can end their decade-long drought without back-to-back conference titles with a dominant showing at the Big Tens this weekend.

Penn State looking to go back-to-back for first time in over a decade

Penn State Wrestling has won 10 National Championships since Cael Sanderson arrived in Happy Valley in 2009. Yet, success in the Big Ten Championships hasn’t been quite as frequent. The Nittany Lions have won seven conference tournament crowns since 2011. Four of those titles were between 2011 and 2014.

Penn State hasn’t won back-to-back Big Ten titles under Sanderson since that 2011-2014 run. Since then, the Nittany Lions have also won in 2016, 2019, and 2023. Ohio State (2017, 2018) and Iowa (2020, 2021) have bested the Nittany Lions in the last decade.

There are multiple explanations for why this has been the case. Most obvious is that Cael Sanderson puts all of his focus on winning the National Championship, even if that includes having wrestlers medically forfeit out of the Big Ten Championships.

In the past, medically forfeiting wouldn’t hurt a wrestler’s record. Therefore, it wouldn’t impact seeding at nationals. It was a way for Cael Sanderson to use the rules to the Nittany Lions’ advantage and make sure his team was as healthy and rested as possible for when it mattered most. The strategy worked well, as Penn State wrestling won the National Championship in 2017, 2018, and 2022 without winning the conference title.

Nittany Lions are heavy favorites to win No. 8

Penn State wrestling and Cael Sanderson will be heavy favorites to win the program’s eighth Big Ten Championship this weekend in College Park. The Nittany Lions have no wrestler seeded lower than sixth, and have six wrestlers receiving byes to the quarterfinals.

Penn State can move into a tie for fifth place with Michigan State for most Big Ten tournament titles won. Cael Sanderson can also tie W. H. Thorn of Indiana for fourth place for most Big Ten Championships by a head coach.

You can watch the Big Ten Championships starting on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET on the Big Ten Network.

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Former contributor at Nittany Central, Patrick joined Basic Blues Nation in 2023 as the Social Media Director, Penn State Wrestling beat writer, and producer of the Penn State Roar Room spaces. Patrick is also a contributor of Penn State football, basketball, and ice hockey news for the site.


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