Over 30 media filled the Rec Hall media room for Sanderson's presser
October 31st, 2011
Q: Coach, can you tell me about the off season and the accolades and the highs of winning a National Championship and the lows of some of the off the mat problems your team has had?
A: Sure, we definitely had a busy summer and even last spring. We've had a lot of change, our coaching staff has changed quite a bit. Our guys were very active in freestyle tournaments, and had a lot of success. As you know, we had a couple of off the mat incidents. But luckily time keeps moving, and we're moving forward here, and about to start this next season that we're fired up about. It is crazy it's already here, but we're ready.
Q: Have you lost anyone else this season besides Long withdrawing from classes?
A: Nope, that is the only thing. Long withdrew from classes immediately after the accusation, but other than that we have everybody.
Q: Where does your competitive career stand?
A: That is a good question, I was going to ask you! (smiling) I don't know. I'm really focused here on getting ready to go. At the same time, I'm preparing to compete just kind of like I always do. As a coach I wrestle every day, it is just a question of being a little bit sharper and little less sloppy in certain areas. It is all Penn State wrestling right now, I'm not worried about my own career at all right now.
Q: On one hand, by most reporter's standards you won the championship a year ahead of schedule, on the other hand by winning it do you feel like the pressure has been magnified for competing this year?
A: We don't feel pressure, we're excited about what these guys were able to do last year. Last year is in the books, it is something that we can always be proud of, it is something that Penn State wrestling fans and alumni and everyone can be proud of. We have a great chance this year to have a very successful season. As long as our guys continue to attack with the same attitude and passion as they have in the past, we're going to have a lot of fun.
Q: You had a couple freshmen do real big things for you last year....What about Nico (Megaludis) and Morgan (McIntosh) this year, are they going to contribute as much as some did last year, or do you have red shirts planned for them?
A: A lot of that will be decided on Thursday, but those guys are preparing to compete. Leading up to this point in the intrasquad at practices, they have both won all their matches against everyone they are going to see from our team. They both are looking really great actually. They are very talented kids with a tough mentality and a belief in themselves which is rare this early in their career. I have a lot of confidence in both of those guys, there is a good chance we will see them in the lineup.
Q: I hear Morgan (McIntosh) is giving Quentin (Wright) quite a run in practice, is that true?
A: (Laughing) Where'd you hear that at? It's around? Well practice is practice. Morgan is doing a great job, and Quentin is a defending National Champion. Anytime you have the opportunity to train with a guy like Quentin it is a great opportunity for Morgan, and it something that he has been capitalizing on, all the great competition in the room. But Morgan is unusual, he's not a typical true freshman. He's pretty advanced and strong and just a talented kid.
Q: You have a lot of new faces in the lineup this year, talk about how they've been adjusting to the Penn State program in the first couple weeks of practice.
A: It's been going really well. We try to recruit kids who fit into our system and into what we do. This freshman class is a great class, it is about ten deep with kids who are hungry and excited to be here, and to be part of a program like this that is challenging for the National Championship every year. We're having a lot of fun with these guys. Nico (Megaludis) and Morgan (McIntosh)are two of the big name guys coming in, but they're a great class and they're all doing really well.
Q: Can you talk about the new coaches and how they have been?
A: They're doing great. (Adam)Lynch just does a fantastic job, you fall in love with him as a fan if you follow him at all. He loves Penn State, he loves Penn State wrestling. He's made a lot of sacrifices to be here. Even last year, he had the opportunity to transfer and wrestle for probably almost any other school, but he chose to stay here and pay tuition after he's already graduated just to be here and be part of the program and be ready if that opportunity came up. That same attitude is what he brings to our staff. (Aaron) Anspach has been around the program for a long time, and he is just a work horse that again loves Penn State. You have to have the right staff and the right culture, everyone has to be on board together, and have the same vision and belief in each other. That's why we're really happy about the staff we were able to put together.
Q: Derek Reber is another name you added this year along with all the freshmen. He had a real good high school career, then had some (injury) trouble at Bucknell. How's he doing this year is he going to be part of the action?
A: Reber is looking really good. Especially lately in the last week when we started wrestling off, he really turned it up a notch. He's a talented kid...He's continuing to improve, and he's a guy that we may need to step up for us and wrestle at 133.
Q: What about the Altons this season?
A: Andrew Alton is going to red shirt this year. He was playing around with getting down to 141 but it just isn't going to happen. It would be a long miserable year for him. Dylan has been wrestling at 157, he'll be in our intra-squad match, and he's been wrestling really well. So, part of the plan with those two was to get them back on the same schedule. And as difficult as it is to red shirt an Andrew Alton that is just kind of the plan.
Q: How close was he to being comfortable at 141?
A: A long ways, he's a 149-pounder right now. He is just a guy that we will get a lot more out of him with three years at 149 than we will this year at 141. It will be good for him to red shirt. He's one of those guys that you just want to have in the lineup because he's just so much fun. The spark that he brought to the team was just incredible, and he deserves a lot of credit for getting the train moving with some of the things he was doing especially early in those dual meets with those big pins. It got everyone believing and ultimately resulted in a National Championship. This year we're going to have to wait.
Q: If not Alton, who is going to wrestle at 141?
A: Right now it's looking like it's going to be between (Bryan) Pearsall and (Sam) Sherlock at 141. They're back and forth, so I really don't know who is going to come out on top. They both won a match in their preliminary matchups going into Thursday night.
Q: Dylan (Alton) is in a loaded weight class. How is that shaping up, who are the main contenders there?
A: Well yes that is a tough weight class. When you have David Taylor at 165 and Frank Molinaro at 149, both guys are wrestling exceptionally well right now, and if you can imagine they have actually improved since last year. It kind of forces everybody else into whatever weight class is left there which is 157. But, Dylan I believe has won all of the preliminary matches so far, but we have to decide who the second guy is going to be in there. We have a lot of good guys in there that are very important to the program. James English hasn't actually wrestled in any of the preliminary matches just because he is trying to get healthy, but we have Nick Fischer in there, James English, James Vollrath and Dirk Cowburn.
Q: Is Martellotti squared away academically?
A: He's getting back on track. We're not really sure if he is going to be eligible right now or not which is strange but true. He is doing well in school, and at the very least as long as he continues to figure things and stays motivated in the classroom, at worst he will be ready by second semester.
Q: Why aren't you sure?
A: He has just had some issues with his summer grades and getting them back just some technicalities that have taken awhile.
Q: When will you know?
A: Hopefully real soon, we should know before our first match.
Q: Is that Penn State standards or NCAA standards?
A: It is Penn State's standards which are a little higher than the Big Ten which is a little higher than the NCAA. He really put himself in a pretty deep hole, so he has really had to fight and work his tail off to get back to where he is. So, we're really proud of him for the position he has put himself.
Q: Is he looking at 133?
A: Yes he is.
Q: Do you have any regrets about (Andrew) Long?
A: Not really, Long is a kid that I have had a relationship with prior and with his family. You wanted to give a kid an opportunity. He has to make certain decisions. Even with his case, it's still pending, we don't know what is happening with him. He withdrew from classes, hopefully we'll find out if he is guilty or not guilty, and what he is guilty of. We know he is guilty of making some bad decisions but at what level we don't and he's paying for those decisions now.
Q: Did you talk to him before he withdrew?
A: Yes, he just knew that was the right thing for him to do just to get out of town and let things settle. He has to get through his trial which is coming up here in November I believe. He's done a great job since that point, I think he has really been doing what he needs to do to take care of himself hopefully.
Q: Have you been in touch with him?
A: Yes, he has done a great job. He needed some help and he needed to make some big changes. It really doesn't get much more scary than his case now, so it has put him in a position where he is doing a good job now.
Q: In a situation where you have a relationship with his family, are you going to be there for him through this thing?
A: Well when you recruit a kid in, you have to stand with him until you know actually what happened or until the case is resolved. Until that point, I think he needs a little support to some degree, he's not anywhere near here, but he still needs some advice, and he needs get some help and he has been doing those things.
Q: Dealing with things like that off the mat is probably one of the hardest parts of the job, is alcohol abuse something that is that part of the regiment for all college coaches?
A: Yes, that is certainly one of my least favorite parts of the job. Kids think that they are invincible at that age. As much as we talk about it, and counsel them, ultimately they are the ones who have to make those tough decisions. They shouldn't be tough decisions. Most of the time they do (the right thing), once in awhile they don't and when they don't there are consequences.
Q: You recruit kids with passion and personality and that passion and personality doesn't end on the mat, is that the case here?
A: Yes absolutely, we talk more about that than anything in the last two years since we've been here. That is something we are working on in the culture, I think that the foundation, I've said it before, the foundation is great, enough to where you can bring an Andrew Long and give him a chance. You give the kid a chance to make something out of himself, and put the ball in his court. But as a program, you have wrestlers who wrestle with a lot of personality and fire, but that personality and fire doesn't just shut off after practice. They need to be wise and make good decisions. We have some great kids in our program, but we've also had a couple of instances. Especially this year, we have more people watching you and telling the same story over and over again, but that is just the name of the game.
Q: How is Andrew Alton dealing with red-shirting?
A: Andrew Alton doesn't want to red shirt, but he can't really be who he wants to be as a wrestler at 141. It is tough for a competitor who has been in the fire already, he's been on a great team, and that team is back with those guys that he has had a lot of success and a lot of fun with. But that's just the way it worked out. They (the Alton's) knew coming in here that it was going to be something like that with Frank Molinaro at 149. We need to get our best guys in there and get the most out of their careers, if that means a red shirt this year than that's what it means.
Q: How is Ed Ruth's standing?
A: Ruth is doing great. He messed up his knee last year at the nationals, he just started getting back on the mat maybe a couple months ago. A guy like Ruth, if he's fresh it is the best thing for him. He is not a guy who needs to be wrestling 365 days a year three times a day, it's actually worse for him. When he is fresh, he is just so good and so talented and such a competitor, that that's what we need to do as a coaching staff is try keep him hungry and fresh like that. So being out with an injury is really not that big of a deal for him, but he's ready to go now and he is looking great.
Q: What was his specific injury?
A: He hurt his knee, his knee locked up with the cartilage in the quarter finals of the national tournament. They just needed to get in there and clean it up. It wasn't a major surgery, but enough that he took the summer off.
Q: Can you talk about his incident and his legal status?
A: Ed Ruth is a guy we haven't really had any issues with at all. He's done a great job, and he put himself in a bad situation there, and we have dealt with that. He is fine moving forward, I'm not worried about Ed Ruth at all.
Q: How is the team shaping up, as far as moving on without Andrew Long at 133?
A: We have a great team. We have a lot of good kids, and a lot of potential points at the national tournament. We just need to keep improving and wrestle to have fun and score points just like we have done in the past. We have a great team and we have as good of a chance as anybody in the national tournament. I suspect it will come down to those key matchups just like it did last year, those key matches in the quarters and the semis and we have to get guys high up on the podium. We had five guys in the top three, but we also had Alton and Cameron Wade that were in the round of twelve. (Brad) Pataky had a win and Alton had a pin. It is going to come down to bonus points just like it did last year. It is just a matter of whether you want it or not. If our guys want it they can do it.
Q: How has the first couple weeks of practice gone?
A: The guys are ready to go. We had a young team last year, but we're going to have a young team this year. We're in a similar position to the one we were in last year. We have a little stronger leadership. Molinaro has been a great leader for us, and now he is just that much more experienced and that much more confident and is leading by example. Also, David Taylor and the fire and ability that he is bringing to the table, we have some guys that you just don't see very often. You don't see David Taylor's and Ed Ruth's and Molinaro's and Alton's you just don't see guys like that, and Quentin Wright, he's our national champion, and Morgan McIntosh these guys are a rare breed. I think our fans and supporters are seeing that, and that is why the season tickets are as high as they are, and we have two matches already sold out. It is just because they know that this is a fun team to watch. It isn't so much about whether they win or not it is more about the fact that they are entertaining. That is something I am looking forward to, I can't wait to just sit back and watch these guys go.
Q: Talking about Quentin Wright, he has a pretty thick weight class, how is he going to handle that kind of pressure coming in number one in the country?
A: I think Quentin is in the same boat that our team is in. Last year is last year, and as proud as we are of that, it is in the past. It is time to try to win the nationals this year. He had a great run there, and you saw the potential that he has. He just got stronger as the tournament went along, and as the competition improved, he got better, the same thing with Big Tens. He is capable of doing whatever he wants to do. He is just incredibly talented, and the sky is the limit for Quentin Wright. If he wants to dominate this year, it is going to be tough to keep him from doing that. It is up to him.
Q: You mentioned Cameron (Wade), he had knee injury at nationals as well. How is he doing?
A: He's doing well, he is wrestling live. I guess that was a crazy round, we had two knee injuries. It's good for Cameron. He is full speed and he should be hungry and ready to go. He is a guy that we are looking to really step up this year as a senior and really get after it and make things happen especially in crunch time, and he is capable of doing that.
Q: How long has he been wrestling live?
A: I believe he has been wrestling live since our first official practice. He has been at it as long as anyone else.
Q: How is Jon Gingrich doing?
A: (Jon) Gingrich is getting better and better. He is big and strong and fast, he's just still putting his game together. He is a guy that could very well be the man there in the future. I'm not sure if he's ready to push Cameron right now, but he is a great athlete. As we're looking at next year, we don't have a set guy at that weight class. Hopefully we'll have some completion there, he very well could be the guy that rises up and takes that spot.
Q: What is he weighing in at now?
A: I don't know. He's getting big. He's not as big as Cameron. He's probably 245.
Q: How will David Taylor do up a weight at 165?
A: I don't think it matters what weight David Taylor goes at. He was in the 80's this summer and I was wrestling with him. He was wrestling 84 kilo guys at the world training camps, and doing awesome. He can go at about any weight he wants, and do well. Weight class doesn't really matter for him.
Q: There was a different format in the NWCA national duals this year, would you ever consider competing in those?
A: Yes we would. We'll see how it goes this year. We just had different ideas on what we wanted to do and how we wanted to help the sport overall. We're not opposed to supporting the National Duals in the future.
Q: Can you elaborate?
A: We had different philosophies on growing the sport in those ways, and the timing, just different things that I don't necessarily agree with. It's not something that is a big deal. We fully support the NWCA. If the event goes well, we'll definitely get back in there.
Q: How is the Big Ten looking this year?
A: The Big Ten is going to be tough. We have Minnesota here in less than a month, and they have a great team, everybody is back. Iowa has almost everyone back. There are some great teams. Nebraska is in the conference now, they are one of the top teams in the nation on a yearly basis. Michigan just stepped there program up in a lot of ways. It is going to be fun.
Q: How did you get Iowa here two years in a row?
A: Just the conference and how they lined it up. We went to Minnesota two years in a row, we've been a couple places two years in a row, that's just how it worked out.
Tags: Andrew Alton, Cameron Wade, David Taylor, Derek Reber, Dirk Cowburn, Ed Ruth, Frank Molinaro, James English, James Vollrath, Jon Gingrich, Morgan McIntosh, Nick Fischer, Quentin Wright