PG South: West Mifflin's Sherlock makes Penn State early college choice
West Mifflin High School's Sam Sherlock is headed for Penn State and competing in the USA nationals in Fargo, N.D.
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Sam Sherlock wanted to make a college selection before the start of his senior year at West Mifflin High School. He also wanted to take the five recruiting visits allowed by the NCAA.
Then came last Wednesday's visit from Cael Sanderson, the new head wrestling coach at Penn State University.
"Coach Sanderson needs a 133-pounder and he wants me to start as a true freshman," said Sherlock, a two-time WPIAL and one-time PIAA champion. "It was a tough decision, but it's hard to say no to the greatest wrestler in NCAA history. His accomplishments as both a wrestler and coach are just crazy."
Sanderson is the only wrestler in NCAA history to complete his collegiate career unbeaten. He won four NCAA Division I titles and compiled a 159-0 record at Iowa State University, then took over as head coach at his alma mater in 2006.
Iowa State finished no lower than fifth in the NCAA tournament during Sanderson's three years as head coach. The Cyclones had 30 of a possible 30 wrestlers qualify for the NCAAs during his tenure. Sanderson's decision to leave Iowa State shocked the wrestling community.
"We talked for three hours with coach Sanderson about his plans for the Penn State program," said Sherlock, who accepted a full scholarship. "My parents just loved him. In fact, my dad joked that he still has college eligibility and wanted to know if coach Sanderson needed a heavyweight."
Sherlock could have chosen any college in the country and received a full ride. He was also considering offers from Cornell, Virginia, Nebraska, Pitt and Maryland.
"I seriously considered taking my five visits," said Sherlock, who had a score of 1,270 on his SAT. "I did make an unofficial visit to Penn State last winter and watched a football game from the sideline. I just loved the university. But that was before coach Sanderson was hired. When I got a chance to meet him in my living room, I knew Penn State was where I wanted to go."
Sherlock's decision came two days before embarking on his third trip to Fargo, N.D., for the USA Wrestling Junior National Freestyle Championships.
"It's such a relief to finally make my college decision," Sherlock said. "Now I can just concentrate on wrestling and my academics."
Sherlock is entered in the 130-pound weight class in the Junior National Freestyle Tournament, which began today.
"[The Pennsylvania contingent] had a four-day training camp at Pitt-Johnstown before leaving for Fargo," Sherlock said. "My goal is to win a national title."
Sherlock competed in the 125-pound weight class, in the Cadet division his first two trips to Fargo. He fell short of All-America status in 2006 after a 5-2 record. The following year, Sherlock became an All-American by placing fourth. He did not attend last year's championships.
"I competed in both styles at the [Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation] state tournament," said Sherlock, who earned a free trip to Fargo by placing first in freestyle and Greco-Roman. "I could have wrestled in both tournaments at Fargo, but it's so hard on the body to do both. I decided to concentrate on freestyle."
Sherlock isn't sure who will be entered in his weight class at Fargo, but expects to see some of the wrestlers he beat at the Disney Duals, a folkstyle tournament held in June.
"I wrestled for Premium Select and we finished fifth," said Sherlock, referring to a Pennsylvania All-Star Team. "We wrestled 15 dual meets in four days and I beat all 15 of my opponents.
"We also had a couple days to check out the attractions at Disney World. This was the second year in a row that I wrestled at the Disney Duals. It was a great way to face some stiff competition and also have a good time."
Sherlock has also been working this summer at Kennywood Amusement Park.
"I can't thank Kennywood enough for the support they have given Sam," said Sam Sherlock Sr. "Sam's supervisor, Joe Barren, has allowed him to take time off twice this summer to attend the Disney Duals and Junior Nationals. We really appreciate that."
Sherlock also plans to enter the Super 32 Folkstyle Championships at the end of October in Greensboro, N.C.
Sherlock has compiled a 109-12 record in his scholastic career at West Mifflin. That leaves him 22 wins short of the school record of 131 wins, set last year by James Fleming, who will soon begin his collegiate career at Clarion University.
Sherlock is a three-time WPIAL Class AAA placewinner, all in the 125-pound weight class. He finished third as a freshman, then won WPIAL titles the past two years. He finished fourth in the PIAA as a sophomore and claimed a title last year.
"Winning the PIAA title last year really took a lot of pressure off me," Sherlock said. "I'm looking forward to my senior year."
First Published July 23, 2009 9:44 am