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© St. Petersburg Times, published March 31, 2002
What comes to mind if I say "wrestling"? Hulk Hogan? WWF? The Rock? Flamboyant, overdramatized, arrogant, scripted mayhem? Jesse "The Body" Ventura?
For a moment, with powerful appreciation, let's get serious and allow wrestling to mean Cael Sanderson. His version of the sport is honest, collegiate and an artful blend of strength, speed and technical excellence.
All hail, King Cael.
UCLA basketball in John Wooden's coaching reign was the mightiest dynasty I've seen; 10 national championships in 12 seasons. Sanderson is close. Close? This athlete from Iowa State was perfect.
It didn't get the continental notice of NCAA basketball or golf's Players Championship, but when the 197-pound Sanderson put a headlock on his fourth Division I individual trophy, plus a fourth NCAA Wrestler of the Year award, King Cael's career record became 159-0. Nobody's ever done that. Nobody in any game.
Hulk, Rock, Jesse ... stand and cheer.
After his 159th was won, Sanderson stood humbly, his smile dampened by tears, as 13,077 delivered a 10-minute standing ovation in Albany, N.Y. "To finally be finished, it's nice," Sanderson said. His coach, Bobby Douglas, said it was "the defining moment in wrestling."
Sanderson is one of four wrestling brothers from Heber, Utah. Though their parents operate a Web site to boost mat-marvelous kids, Cael's national fame is a spotlight or two shy of most backup major-league shortstops or the 49th guy on Super Bowl champ New England's roster.
A 159-0 dynasty deserves more.
PINS: Did we need to know what chunky, middle-aged Milwaukee Bucks coach George Karl revealed, that he never wears underwear to games? ... Peer respect is forever large, so it must've been chilling for Jason Giambi when the extraordinary Alex Rodriguez said, "I think he'll be the next Babe Ruth in New York. Best left-handed hitter I ever played against, period." How about right, A-Rod? ... Colin Montgomerie helped create his American quagmire, being a rabbit-eared Scot who often reacts with sneers at spectators, but the jerks who brutally razz him are predominantly beered-up non-golfers of questionable class who are frequently egged on by radio talk-show morons.
READER'S SHOUT: Concern dripped from an e-mail from Destin Bray who worried "my Buccaneers seem to be falling apart, with popular players like Warrick Dunn and Dave Moore beginning to go elsewhere, as I fear John Lynch and Derrick Brooks may soon do.
"Warren Sapp can leave, being among the NFL's most overrated and overexposed. But having been sickened by terrible Tampa Bay teams of the '80s, I don't want to revert to anything close. I hope the Bucs haven't overspent to get Jon Gruden when we had a solid coach in Tony Dungy.
"Am I being too reactionary?"
HUBERT'S REPLY: Maybe. It's the sad nature of today's NFL mechanism, Destin. Dunn became overpriced. Wonderful fellow, but he's not the next Emmitt Smith. I suggest a bit more of a honeymoon for Gruden. Can't we grant him a pass for at least September? This is a terrific offensive coach. Strong, magnetic personality. A wonderful catch for the Bucs, even if the method of hiring was flawed and costly.
SLAMS: Traffic will snarl April Fool's night in Oakland, with the A's playing their home opener at the Coliseum while Paul McCartney entertains next door in the Arena. ... Sacramento is a championship threat but long before there were the Kings, three cities back was the Rochester (N.Y.) Royals who ruled the NBA in 1951; the only season during a six-year run (1949-54) when the Minneapolis Lakers (who became Los Angeles property) didn't win it all. ... New Englanders are furious sports people, evidenced by high-demand interest in the Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins, and now the Patriots' shock of Feb. 3 has triggered the biggest sale of a Super Bowl video, Steve Sabol of NFL Films said. ... Shaq O'Neal philosophies keep coming: "Three times I've been to strip bars, usually going as chaperone to other players. I'm the type who doesn't drink and makes sure nobody is acting crazy. I do not drink in public, only at home, usually at New Year's, and even then it's not hard liquor. I never, never drink and drive."
Whatever happened to Detlef Schrempf?
-- To reach Hubert Mizell, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to P.O. Box 726, Nellysford, VA 22958.