Sanderson places sixth in the AP Male Athlete of the Year voting

By Gary Abbott | Dec. 27, 2002, 12 a.m. (ET)
Undefeated four-time NCAA wrestling champion Cael Sanderson (Ames, Iowa/Sunkist Kids) placed sixth in the voting for the 2002 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year. Cyclist Lance Armstrong, the Tour de France winner, won the award, edging baseball superstar Barry Bonds in the voting. The only athletes who placed ahead of Sanderson in the voting were Armstrong, Bonds, golfer Tiger Woods, football player Tom Brady and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. Sanderson received three first place votes, the same number as baseball player Randy Johnson, who finished seventh. Only Armstrong, Bonds and Woods had more first place votes. Sanderson had the highest placement for an amateur athlete, as all five athletes who placed ahead of him are professional athletes. The next highest amateur athlete was Olympic champion short-track speedskater Apolo Ohno, who was tied in 11th. Sanderson's sixth place finish matches the best known placement by a wrestler in the voting. In 2000, Olympic champion Rulon Gardner placed sixth in the AP Male Athlete of the Year voting, and also received three first-place votes. However, Sanderson scored 29 points in the voting in 2002 to take sixth, while Gardner received sixth place in 2000 with just 18 points. In 2002, Sanderson completed a historic college wrestling career for Iowa State Univ., becoming the first to win four NCAA Div. I wrestling titles and complete his career undefeated. His final college record was an amazing 159-0. In freestyle wrestling, Sanderson won gold medals at the U.S. Nationals and the World Team Trials to become No. 1 in his weight class in the United States. He was unable to compete at the World Championships when the U.S. chose not to attend the event in Iran due to threats of violence to the team. Sanderson beat 1996 Olympic Champion Khajimurad Magomedov in the Kurt Angle Classic this fall. The voting was based upon ballots submitted by editors and broadcasters across the world. The Associated Press has presented this award since 1931, and no wrestler has ever won. 2002 ASSOCIATED PRESS MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR Based on a 3-2-1 point system with first place votes in parentheses Player/Pts 1. Lance Armstrong, cycling (45), 292 pts. 2. Barry Bonds, baseball (31), 233 pts. 3. Tiger Woods, golf (7), 110 pts. 4. Tom Brady, football (2), 38 pts. 5. Shaquille O'Neal, basketball (1), 33 pts. 6. Cael Sanderson, wrestling (3), 29 pts. 7. Randy Johnson, baseball (3), 28 pts. 8. Tony Stewart, auto racing (2), 22 pts. 9. Emmitt Smith, football (1), 21 pts. 10. Alex Rodriguez, baseball (2), 17 pts. 11. (tie) Saku Koivu, hockey (2), 14 pts. 11. (tie) Apolo Ohno short-track speedskating (1), 14 pts. 13. Priest Holmes (1), football, 12 pts. 14. Juan Dixon, basketball (1), 11 pts. 15. (tie) Ronaldo, soccer, 9 pts. 15. (tie) Jimmy Shea, skeleton (1), 9 pts. 15. (tie) Alexei Yagudin, Figure skating (1), 9 pts. 18. (tie) Kobe Bryant, basketball, 7 pts. 18. (tie) Lennox Lewis, boxing (1), 7 pts. 20. (tie) Brad Banks, football (1), 6 pts. 20. (tie) Brett Favre, football, 6 pts. 22. (tie) Tim Montgomery, track and field, 5 pts. 22. (tie) John Stockton, basketball (1), 5 pts. 22. (tie) Adam Vinitieri, football (1), 5 pts. 22. (tie) Roy Williams, football (1), 5 pts. 26. (tie) Ken Dorsey, football, 3 pts. 26. (tie) Drew Gooden, basketball, 3 pts. 26. (tie) Lleyton Hewitt, tennis, 3 pts. 26. (tie) Sam Hornish, auto racing, 3 pts. 26. (tie) Bode Miller, skiing, 3 pts.