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Penn State Continues Wrestling Dominance: Part One

image of 1950s wrestler
Penn State Dr. Lox

Penn State Wins 8th of last 9th NCAA Wrestling Titles: Wrestling Success and Physicality

Wrestling is a very physical sport prone to injuries. To sustain dominance year after year is no coincidence – Penn State has a formula for success. Let’s take a quick look back at the history of wrestling and shed some light on the patterns of success surrounding the greatest wrestlers of their era who then became extraordinary successful coaches.

Dennis M. Lox M.D. Sports and Regenerative Medicine Expert

What does dominating the wrestling mat have to do with Dennis M. Lox M.D., a stem cell and Sports and Regenerative expert? First, Dr. Lox has treated many wrestlers, and was a wrestler himself. Second, history repeats itself.  As a student of learning, understanding the value of diverse knowledge has merit. In the past, if men became brilliant and experts in many fields, they were called Renaissance Men or Polymaths.

Renaissance Men, Wrestling and History

the vitruvian man

Painting of the Vitruvian Man By Leonardo Da Vinci

Examples of brilliant Polymaths are Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Albert Schweitzer, and Benjamin Franklin. So, let’s look at wrestling history as an example of history, and how sports science and the evolution of modern training has affected all sports.

This includes training athletes harder at younger ages, this has changed injury patterns and longevity in sports. In essence, we are creating brilliant, stronger wrestlers. They work hard at younger ages, study film, and understand the history of the sport. Jason Nolf is noted for his creativity and artistry on the wrestling mat. Cael Sanderson and Dan Gable are wrestling legends. Cael Sanderson is now shaping brilliant wrestlers in his mold in the last decade. Many will be arguably some of the greatest of all time, in the mold of their mentor. Professional baseball pitchers can’t start 30 games anymore, so Denny McClain’s 1968, 30 game win season will never be broken. Training younger and does take a toll on the body. So sports science is now widely applied.

The Dan Gable Era

The name Dan Gable was synonymous with wrestling for decades. Dan Gable neared mythic level winning 2 NCAA titles. However, in his 3rd  year, his undefeated streak was snapped. It was in the finals of his senior year by a relatively unknown, but talented wrestler named Larry Owings. Gable went on to win the 1972 Olympics without giving up a point. Dan Gable was a pinning machine and became the poster athlete for the sport of wrestling.

Dan Gable Coaching Iowa

Dan Gable left Iowa State to coach instate rival Iowa. What happened next was nearly a 21-year span of Iowa dominance, producing 15 National titles, 45 National Champions, 8 Olympic Games medalists. including, Tom Brands a 3 time NCAA champion and 1996 Olympic Gold Medal winner. Tom Brands is now the Iowa wrestling coach.

The Cael Sanderson Era

Cael Sanderson was a new breed of a wrestler. He was scoring bonus points with a fluid constant motion. His brother Cody Sanderson, an assistant coach now at Penn State, described Cael, as having a 6th sense for the sport of wrestling. Cael Sanderson shattered all the records. He went 159-0, winning 4 NCAA Wrestling titles, 4 Outstanding Wrestler at the NCAA tournament, and 3 time Hodge Trophy Winner (the Heisman Trophy of college Wrestling). Wrestlers don’t wrestle as many as 40 matches a year today, so his 159-0 record is probably untouchable. No other wrestler has won 4 NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestler, or 3 Hodge Trophy wins. 3 other wrestlers have won the Hodge Trophy 2 times. Two of the 3, were coached by Sanderson at Penn State. David Taylor and Zain Retherford, both have 2 Hodge Trophies. Dan Gable was in attendance as Cael Sanderson won his 4th NCAA Wrestling title for his alma mater Iowa State, wearing his Iowa State letterman jacket. One legend proudly passes the torch to another. Sanderson has remained the only 4-time winner to go his entire college career undefeated.

Cael Sanderson needed to complete his resume with an Olympic Gold Medal, which he won in 2004 at Athens.

Next Sanderson briefly coached at Iowa State, doing respectable but not winning a National title in 3 years. He placed as high as 3rd.

Cael Sanderson Builds a Wrestling Dynasty at Penn State

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During the season of 2010, Cael Sanderson took over the helm of head wrestling coach at Penn State. The following year, Sanderson won the NCAA Wrestling National Title. Starting a 4 year run of consecutive National titles. Producing extremely talented, and all-time greats Ed Ruth a 3 time NCAA Champion, and David Taylor a 2 time NCAA Champion, and 2 time Hodge Trophy winner. After a year of rebuilding, Sanderson started another 4-year NCAA National Wrestling title run. Now winning 8 of the last 9 National titles. Producing 3 more 3 time National Champions, Zain Retherford (2-time Hodge Trophy Winner), Bo Nickal (2019 Hodge Trophy Winner), and Jason Nolf. All are considered as all-time college wrestling greats. There are only 4 multiple Hodge Trophy winners. Two were Penn State wrestlers Zain Retherford (2), and David Taylor (2). Missouri’s Ben Askren was also, a two time Hodge winner. The only 3-time winner was Cael Sanderson, now Penn state’s coach. Penn State has the most Hodge Trophy winners with 4. Kerry McCoy had one in a pre-Sanderson Penn State. Penn State Hodge Trophy totals with multiple wins are 6. If you include Sanderson’s Iowa State career, you have 9.

Nolf and Nickal, both this season broke the all-time Penn State pin record. Nolf has the record at 60, and Nickal is second at 59. Pretty rare air, considering Zain Retherford tied David Taylor’s and Josh Moore’s record at 53, just last year. At 40 Cael Sanderson is far from done. One journalist described one of Sanderson’s successes, as greatness breeds greatness. Getting back to students of history and learning, this is probably correct. Dan Gable and Cael Sanderson are inextricably linked.

The Best Wrestling NCAA Point Scorers, A Coincidence?

It is very smart for good to great wrestlers to surround themselves with legendary wrestling coaches, who understand what it takes to be the very best. In a ten year period look at the credentials of the all-time most points scored at the NCAA Wrestling Tournament. At the top is Cael Sanderson. In the top ten, there is David Taylor, Ed Ruth, and Zain Retherford. The reference article is from 2018. Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal are now on it. Look at where Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal are now in history. “Two of the best to ever wrestler”, is what Cael Sanderson said. Nickal and Nolf’s career is so closely mirrored images when looked at a whole. Both in the same year. Not in 80 years has the NCAA had a school with two 3 time champions the same year. The list is flattering to the coach who sits at the top. Recruits should pay attention to history. it repeats itself. Brillance is often a combination of inherent gifts and extreme drive. Surround yourself around the best. The painters flocked to Michelangelo and Da Vinci. The students to Einstein, and Newton. The best doctors wanted to train with the best. Its a lesson in history and being the best. Hard work, determination, and grit will take you a long way. Doing it alone rarely takes you to the top. Sport can be also viewed as to prepare you for life. If lessons of determination and drive are applied to future life pursuits, it may then take you into new realms of greatness. There are only a few Mozart’s, however, the athletic achievement is not that type of gift. Michael Jordan was a notoriously driven hard worker, and most often cited as the greatest basketball player of all time.

A Teen Wrestler with Hip AVN

Avascular necrosis or AVN, is where a region of bone dies, often leading to joint replacement, and ending athletes careers. This is what happened to the legendary Professional Football and Baseball player Bo Jackson. Dr. Lox treated a wrestlers hip, with stem cells and he avoided hip replacement surgery and continued in sports. Many other athletes in a similar position with AVN have turned to Dr. Lox to save their sports career.

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About Dennis M. Lox, M.D.

Whether you are a professional athlete, weekend warrior, or have arthritis from aging, Dr. Lox can help.

Dennis M. Lox, M.D. is an internationally renown Sports and Regenerative Medicine specialist. Dr. Lox incorporates Regenerative Medicine techniques such as cell science applications, Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP), and Tissue Engineering aspects, to help patients from around the world with a vast array of problems. Dr. Lox is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Dr. Lox lectures extensively and has edited two PM&R textbooks, the prestigious A State of the Art Review (Star) on Low Back Pain, and Soft Tissue Injuries: Diagnosis and Treatment.

Dennis M. Lox, M.D. maintains an active practice in the Tampa Bay, Florida area, and in Beverly Hills, California.

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