USA Wrestling SCHULTZ FEATURE: Ken...

SCHULTZ FEATURE: Kendrick Sanders seeks second career Dave Schultz Memorial title at a new weight class

By Chris Casper | Jan. 30, 2014, 5:43 p.m. (ET)

Kendrick Sanders, winner of the 2012 Dave Schultz Memorial International, hopes to finish as the 2014 Dave Schultz champion with a gold medal tonight at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Sanders won his first Schultz title in the 66 kg/145.5 lbs. weight class in 2012. This year, he will be wrestling Bo Beckman of the New York AC in the brand new 71 kg/156 lbs. class.

This change in weight class reflects the new FILA weight classes for the new Olympic cycle, and Sanders feels the changes work to his advantage. His new weight will be contested at the World Championships, but not at the Olympic Games.

“It has definitely helped me. It allows me to focus more on wrestling and not as much on dropping weight. This gives me more mat time and a better feel for my decision to go 71 kg or 66 kg when I am in the (Olympic) Trials,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ comfort at 71 kg/156 lbs. showed in his 8-0 technical fall decision over Joseph Foreman of the U.S. Marines in the semifinals. Pleased with the win, he hopes to capitalize on what worked and focus on details that could help him in the final.

“It feels great, making it to the finals, especially in Dave Schultz Memorial. Last time I wrestled in it I made it to the finals and I won it… I’m looking to repeat that performance,” Sanders said.

Sanders feels confident that his current attack will allow him to get his offense going in the finals. He has developed a reputation as an athlete who scores many points, often on high amplitude throws.

“I’ll keep doing the same things. Obviously I want to score more on my feet—the more scores on my feet the more attempts I get on top,” Sanders said. “Going into the final match I want to dictate my own pace, be aggressive on my feet, score from my positions and not giving up on the hooks.”

“Recently I have been working on getting more aggressive and not being too relaxed on my feet, that gets me in trouble. For the last couple of months I’ve been working more on attacks and not so much on a laid-back style. So far, so good in this tournament,” Sanders said.

Sanders, who was third in the 2013 U.S. World Team Trials and second in the U.S. Open, is a student at Northern Michigan University where he trains at the U.S. Olympic Education Center under Coach Rob Hermann. Coach Hermann saw the results of Sanders’ work this last year.

“He’s very explosive. He’s a great athlete. He’s the only one who holds himself back and he can turn it on when he wants to. We hope he turns it on for six minutes and doesn’t let the other guy in the ball game. He went overseas and had a great Russian tour, a Russian camp for two weeks, and I think it’s paying off.,” Hermann said.

Coach Hermann also gives Sanders high marks for his leadership outside the wrestling room.

“Kendrick Sanders is a unique athlete. He brings a dimension in our room and it’s nice that he also performs outside the room. He’s a good model for the team and the team looks up to him, not only because of his success on the mat be also because of what he brings to the room,” Hermann said.

Is Sanders feeling the pressure as he goes into the final this evening? Is the pressure on?

“It’s really more of an excitement type of nerves, not fear. Everyone gets nervous, but it’s all part of the game. For me I just respond to the challenge and go out there and do what I know how to do.” Sanders said.