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Hectic, fun times for Sanderson as he adapts to new role as ISU coach

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Nobody can ever accuse Cael Sanderson of not giving back to the sport that has made him so famous.

The four-time NCAA champion, Olympic gold medalist and new head coach at Iowa State University logged a busy day on Sunday at the UNI-Dome as the featured guest at USA Wrestling's ASICS Kids/Cadet Folkstyle National Championships.

Sanderson chatted and smiled with the kids in the front of the line as he led the Parade of All-Americans at 8:30 Sunday morning. Soon after the ceremony, he was surrounded by a horde of around 100 autograph seekers. He posed for pictures and signed shirts, singlets and the Wheaties boxes he appeared on after completing his brilliant 159-0 career at Iowa State.

He finished the day by posing with the All-Americans in each weight class as they stood on the championship podium for post-meet photos.

Sanderson managed to find time to spend a day with some of the country's top young wrestlers despite a whirlwind couple of weeks where the 26-year-old replaced long-time ISU coach Bobby Douglas. He has been busy assembling his coaching staff and also with recruiting.

"It's been a pretty crazy couple of weeks," Sanderson said as he shook hands with a young wrestler and his father. "There is a lot of work to do at Iowa State and a lot of things I need to get in motion. It's been really hectic, but it's been fun. This is something I'm really looking forward to."

Sanderson already hired former Minnesota star Tim Hartung as an assistant coach. Hartung had been an assistant to Jim Zalesky at Iowa before the entire Hawkeye staff was let go following the 2006 season. Hartung won two NCAA titles for the Gophers, was a member of the 2002 U.S. World freestyle team and is a former training partner of Sanderson's.

"Tim is a real good coach," Sanderson said. "I'm excited about having him on board."

Sanderson's next hire likely will be his older brother, Cody, who resigned last week as the head coach at Utah Valley State. Cael said he will interview his brother for the position. Cody would be an ideal fit to coach the lower weights at ISU with Hartung coaching the upper weights.

"Cody has some really good credentials," Cael said. "Plus he has experience as a head coach. He just brings a lot to the table."

Another Sanderson family member, Cael's father Steve, also will be relied on for advice. Steve coached the four Sanderson brothers from the time they started competing through their high school days at Wasatch in Utah.

"My dad has a lot of experience as a coach and built a national power back in Utah," Cael said. "He's always given me a lot of good advice and I'm sure that will continue."

The Cyclones return All-Americans Trent and Travis Paulson, and Kurt Backes. Iowa State also redshirted one of the best recruiting classes in the country this season. Among the studs in that class who likely will make an impact next year are Cael's brother, Cyler, along with Nick Gallick, Mitch Mueller and Jake Varner. Gallick is the younger brother of Cyclone national champion Nate Gallick.

"I'm real excited about the kids we have in the program right now," Sanderson said. "I have a lot of confidence in these kids. We're real young, but we're fighters. If you fight, everything else will take care of itself. The kids we redshirted this year are very good. I'm excited to see what they can do. We have another great class coming in next fall."

Cyler Sanderson was unable to wrestle in open tournaments during his redshirt season because of a knee injury. But he is on track to be ready for next season. He likely will compete at 149 pounds.

"Cyler's doing real well," Cael said. "He could wrestle now, but we're going to hold him out for a little while. But he's back to 100 percent again."

Iowa State hasn't won a NCAA title since 1987, but don't be surprised if the Cyclones are in contention in 2007.

"Hard work and focus will be key for us," Sanderson said. "Once we establish that we'll be on our way. We have a very hard working group of kids in the room with a lot of potential."

Sanderson earlier was asked about what his team's chances are for next year.

"If I didn't say we're working to win a national title next year, I'd be lying to you," he said. "That's my plan and I know that's the plan of the kids on the team."

Sanderson becomes a Division I head coach less than two years after winning the Olympics.

"I really didn't think it would happen this soon," he said, "but ready or not here I come."
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