Cael Sanderson calmly waved to more than 500 standing fans as he walked through a group of cheerleaders and the Nittany Lion mascot, waving to the contingent that welcomed the wrestling legend into the Penn State wrestling family.
As Athletic Director Tim Curley introduced him to the crowd, Sanderson's face maintained the same confident and composed disposition throughout the event as he talked about his focus for the Nittany Lion wrestling program.
"I'm excited about the future for Penn State wrestling," Sanderson said at Monday's press conference. "I'm very grateful about this opportunity. My plans are big, my vision is big, so it's just a matter of getting it done. We can and we will win."
Rec Hall, nationally known for its tradition and historical excellence, welcomed the most successful wrestler in college history to Penn State, on the same home floor where he'll be coaching his new team next season.
Although he continually expressed his excitement to be in Happy Valley, Sanderson searched for words to describe how emotional the past couple days had been as he deliberated over leaving Iowa State.
"I cherish my time there and I loved every minute of it," he said. "There are very special people there and it was special. It's a tough time but sometimes you have to make tough decisions."
Curley announced Sanderson, who sported a Penn State wrestling pin on his suit jacket, will bring part of his coaching staff from Ames, Iowa, to State College. Casey Cunningham, one of Sanderson's assistants and a two-time All-American at Central Michigan, was at Rec Hall Monday and will be following Sanderson to Penn State.
Sanderson said "he is grateful that my staff is coming" with him and could not have made the decision to come to Penn State without the support of his coaches. His brother, Cody, the associate head coach for the Cyclones, will also likely come to Penn State, Sanderson said.
Iowa State's website now features a blank page, saying there is "no staff listed for this season" under its coaches tab.
The crowd in attendance cheered loudly as Sanderson called Pennsylvania high school wrestlers "the best in the country." Sanderson said he has familiarity with the state but will develop relationships with coaches in the near future.
The former Cyclone said he had heard comments about "alternative" reasons he may have taken the job and was eager to dismiss he took the job for the money.
Curley declined to comment on the specifics of Sanderson's salary, simply saying it "is probably up there" among the most well-paid college coaches in the game. He also added many of the rumors he had seen about the salary figure were not accurate. Sanderson earned a base salary of $137,000 as the Cyclones head coach, according to public records.
Sanderson also declined to discuss the current Cyclone wrestlers who might come with him and become Lions.
Throughout the last week, Sanderson said he thought about his decision "non-stop." But ultimately, Sanderson said he felt comfortable with Penn State President Graham Spanier and Curley as they recruited him away from his alma mater.
"Bottom line, they're committed to this program," Sanderson said. "I'm not worried about the pressure, pressure is a good thing. It's not going to change my approach. I'm going to do things the way I know how. This will also help me achieve my goals as a coach. My goal is to win a national championship every year. It's simple."