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Accomplishment, relief settles in for Sanderson

Tuesday, March 26, 2002

AMES - Iowa State's Cael Sanderson and Joe Heskett both felt a great weight had been lifted off of their shoulders, but for completely different reasons.

Sanderson became the first undefeated four-time NCAA wrestling champion Saturday at the NCAA Championships in Albany, N.Y., while Heskett won his first national title after finishing second twice and third once.

"I was just relieved," said Sanderson, who beat Lehighs Jon Trenge, 12-4, to win at 197 pounds and finish his career with a perfect 159-0 record. "There was a lot of weight off my shoulders. It was just a great feeling. It was peaceful. It was nice."

Individual titles by Sanderson and Heskett, who beat Illinois Matt Lacky, 4-2, at 165 pounds, helped lead the Cyclones to a second-place finish in the tournament.

The Cyclones also got help from Aaron Holker who beat Arizona State's Eric Larkin 10-5 at 141 pounds.

Iowa State finished with 104 points. Minnesota won with 126.5 points.

"This right here," Heskett said while patting the Cyclones second-place trophy, "you divide seven ways between each member and each coach. This is one of the proudest second places I'll ever have. This is well-earned. I mean that."

Iowa State also had All-American performances by Zach Roberson who finished seventh at 133 and Billy Maldonado who finished sixth at 149.

The Cyclones were welcomed back to campus Sunday by approximately 300 fans at the Lied Recreation Facility.

"We weren't expected to do much of anything," Sanderson said. "We didn't get much credit from the get-go. To come through and take second with seven guys, it's unbelievable. I'm real proud of our team."

Oklahoma was third in the team standings with 101.5 points while Iowa was fourth with 89. It was the first time the Cyclones finished ahead of state rival Iowa since 1989.

"These guys, they exceeded all my expectations," Iowa State coach Bobby Douglas said. "They did an outstanding job. We're really proud of this group. They're a class group of guys and any coach would be proud of these guys. There were a lot of ingredients that came together at the right time. I'd like to claim credit for it, but I believe it was a power greater than mine."

Sanderson, whose previous titles were at 184, is the second Division I wrestler to win four national titles, but he is the first to go unbeaten in his career. Oklahoma States Pat Smith won four titles from 1990-92 and in 1994, but was 121-5-2 in his career.

Sanderson was the 10th four-time finalist in the Division I tournament and is the 10th four-time champion in all levels of college wrestling.

"In my wildest imagination, I could have never ever dreamed of a wrestler going through his collegiate career undefeated," Douglas said. "It never happened before and I don't know if it'll happen again.

"He's the greatest collegiate wrestler ever. When the people in Oklahoma say it, and the people in Iowa say it ... I believe anyone who can go through a career in college undefeated has to be considered real, real special."

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