Big Ten Trio Dominate Male Athlete of the Year Awards
(Cover photo by Tony Rotundo/Wrestlers Are Warriors)
It’s been a heck of a week for Big Ten wrestlers, especially for those coming off a NCAA title this past March. The University of Illinois, Penn State University, and Ohio State University all named wrestlers as the winners of their Male Athlete of the Year Award.
Ohio State sophomore Kyle Snyder was named his university’s winner on Monday after completing his season with a perfect 11-0 record and garnering a Big Ten title in addition to his NCAA title. In the NCAA finals Snyder knocked off NC State’s Nick Gwiazdowski, who was the two time defending NCAA champion at heavyweight. His win also snapped Gwiazdowski’s 88-match win streak. Snyder will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games held in Brazil.
Snyder was also the third straight wrestler to win the Male Athlete of the Year at Ohio State, with teammate Logan Steiber winning the award in 2014 and 2015. Synder’s coach J Jagers is the only other wrestler to win the award at Ohio State, doing so in 2009.
The next day Penn State University named their sophomore, Zain Retherford, as their Male Athlete of the Year recipient making him the fifth straight wrestler from coach Cael Sanderson’s team to win the award. Prior to Retherford winning David Taylor won the award in both 2012 and 2014, Ed Ruth won in 2013, and Matt Brown last year.
Retherford’s selection comes off his undefeated season at 149 pounds for the Nittany Lions and an astonishing 30 bonus point wins in his 34 matches. Retherford was also named the 2016 Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and NCAA’s Most Dominant Wrestler of the Year. He earned First Team Academic Big Ten Honors and was a NWCA First Team National All-Academic selection. He is also the U.S.’s Olympic alternate at 65 kilograms.
Finally, Illinois named Isaiah Martinez (also a sophomore) their winner of Male Athlete of the Year after he was able to repeat as NCAA champion at 157 pounds. Martinez suffered his first and only loss of his career this season when at a home dual against Penn State freshman Jason Nolf. Martinez would go on to avenge that loss in both the Big Ten and NCAA finals.
A month ago Martinez told Takedown Wrestling that he would be making the move to 165 pounds for his final two years at Illinois.
Like the first two wrestlers Martinez is also an accomplished freestyle wrestler, as he qualified for the University World Championships this October in Turkey.
That makes three of the Big Ten’s five NCAA champions winning their respective college Male Athlete of the Year awards. The only two who did not win the award were blocked by their teammates. Nico Megaludis of Penn State won the 125-pound NCAA title and Myles Martin of Ohio State won the 174-pound title.