PSU wrestling coach to speak at April event
By Josh Langenbacher
One of the most accomplished athletes and coaches in sports history is set to be the featured speaker at the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame enshrinement.
Cael Sanderson, whose success in wrestling from his days as a collegian to his current tenure as head coach at Penn State is unmatched, will headline the 2018 ceremony on Saturday, April 7 at the Blair County Convention Center.
“I’m aware of the history of the banquet, and it will be a privilege to be there,” Sanderson said. “I also know how much support there is for Penn State and for wrestling in the Blair County area, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Sanderson, arguably the greatest American amateur wrestler ever, went undefeated at Iowa State, is an Olympic champion and is building a dynasty at Penn State that is unparalleled.
The Nittany Lions won four consecutive NCAA team wrestling championships (2011-14) and six of the past seven years.
“Cael Sanderson has quickly established himself as a legend in Penn State and wrestling history and is truly a giant in the sports world,” Blair County Sports Hall of Fame President Neil Rudel said. “He doesn’t do many engagements like this, so we’re quite pleased that he’s agreed to be our featured guest. We think it will be a great night for Blair County and the fans of the Penn State and local wrestling communities.”
Sanderson will be the keynote speaker just weeks after the wrestling season ends. The NCAA wrestling championships are scheduled for March 15-17 in Cleveland, and after winning back-to-back titles in 2016-17, the Nittany Lions are expected to be heavy favorites to win their third straight team championship.
“Penn State could be coming off its seventh national title in eight years under Cael, so we think the timing is perfect,” Rudel said.
Sanderson has been a champion at every level. He won four state championships as a high school wrestler in Utah, went undefeated at Iowa State (159-0) and won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
As the head coach at Penn State, Sanderson has coached 19 individual All-Americans, eight national champions, one two-time NCAA tournament outstanding wrestler and one two-time Hodge Trophy winner, which is awarded to the most outstanding college wrestler.
Sanderson will join a long list of distinguished sports figures to grace the Hall of Fame’s dais, including past Penn State football coach Joe Paterno (1987) and current Nittany Lion coach James Franklin (2014).
In between, such legendary figures as Terry Bradshaw, Bob Knight, Dick Vitale, Bobby Bowden, Jim Boeheim, Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger have served as guest speakers to cap the Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony.
“The Hall of Fame has a great track record of bringing in some of the biggest names in sports, and Cael Sanderson will help add to that legacy,” Rudel said.
The 2018 Hall of Fame induction class features basketball standouts Tracey (Slogik) Biesecker, Bill Kagarise and Curtis Miller, national champion boxer Jim Restauri and Vince Nedimyer, who excelled on the gridiron.
In addition, the Hall will induct the 1962 Altoona High School football team, the Mountain Lions’ last unbeaten football team.
Pittsburgh broadcaster Stan Savran will return as the banquet’s emcee. He’s presided over all of the Hall of Fame’s previous 17 banquets.
Advance orders for tickets, priced at $75 ($750 for table of 10) before Dec. 31 and $85 ($850 for table) after that, are currently being accepted. Checks can be made payable to:
The Blair County Sports Hall of Fame
P.O. Box 162
Altoona, PA 16603
For more ticket information, call Kathy Millward at 312-0151.
Tickets can also be purchased online on the Hall of Fame’s website at blaircountysportshof.com/tickets/.
A list of the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame’s past guest speakers:
1987: Joe Paterno
1988: Paul Evans
1989: Terry Bradshaw
1990: Roy Firestone
1992: Bob Knight
1994: Dick Vitale
1996: Joe Theismann
1998: Mary Lou Retton
2000: Rick Majerus
2002: Bobby Bowden
2004: Jim Boeheim
2006: Greg Gumbel
2008: Hines Ward
2010: Chris Fowler
2012: Ben Roethlisberger
2014: James Franklin
2016: Jay Bilas