Congrats, Cole!

Konrad named Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year

DATE: 6/20/2007 1:40:00 PM
Minneapolis, MN
By Tory Kukowski

University of Minnesota senior wrestler Cole Konrad has been named the Big Ten - Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year, the conference office announced today. The award is the highest honor an athlete can receive from the Big Ten Conference.

Konrad beat out the likes of Ohio State?s 2006 Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, Penn State?s All-American linebacker Paul Posluszny and Wisconsin?s 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year Alando Tucker.

Konrad is just the fourth athlete from the University of Minnesota to earn Big Ten ? Jesse Owens Athlete of the Year honors since the award was instituted in 1982. He is the first Golden Gopher athlete to win the award since wrestler Damion Hahn won it in 2004. Gymnast John Roethlisberger was the first Minnesota athlete to earn the award in 1983, while Jordan Leopold was honored after leading the hockey team to a national title in 2002. Swimmer Gretchen Hegener won the Suzy Favor Female Athlete of the Year award in 1997.

Arguably the greatest wrestler in school history, Konrad capped off his brilliant career with his second straight individual national title in leading the Golden Gophers to their third NCAA championship in the last seven years. He became just the fourth Minnesota wrestler to win multiple NCAA titles and the fifth to earn All-America honors four times in a career.

With his 2007 Big Ten heavyweight title, Konrad became only the fifth wrestler in school history to win three Big Ten individual crowns as he helped the Gophers run away with their second straight conference title. He also became just the third wrestler in conference history to win multiple Big Ten Wrestler of the Year awards.

Konrad finished his career with a school-record 76-match winning streak, which also ranks as the 13th-longest in Division I history. He posted a career record of 155-13 for a .923 career winning percentage, the fourth-best in school history. His 155 career victories and 50 career pins are both totals that rank second on the school?s all-time record charts. Only a minor shoulder injury at the beginning of the 2007 season prevented Konrad from having a chance to challenge both of those marks.

This past season, Konrad pinned 13 of the 28 wrestlers he faced and was forfeited to seven times. He went 11-0 against ranked opponents on the year, including a pin of second-ranked Aaron Anspach of Penn State in the NCAA title match.

Perhaps the most telling characteristic of Konrad?s career was his reputation for coming through in the clutch. Sixteen times during his career, Konrad needed to win his match to clinch a Minnesota victory and all 16 times he delivered. At the finals of the 2007 National Duals, Minnesota trailed Missouri by two points entering the heavyweight bout. Needing only a win, Konrad delivered in dramatic fashion by pinning Tyler Perry to clinch Minnesota?s second straight National Duals title.

The Big Ten Conference has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 when Indiana?s Jim Spivey earned the inaugural award. The following year, a women?s award was created. In 1991-92, as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of women?s athletics in the conference, the women?s award was renamed in honor of former Wisconsin track standout and three-time recipient Suzy Favor.

The complete list of this year?s Big Ten Conference Jesse Owens and Suzy Favor Athletes of the Year nominees is as follows:

School Male Nominee Female Nominee
Illinois Kevin Anderson (tennis) Yvonne Mensah (track)
Indiana Angel Escobedo (wrestling) Lella Vaziri (swimming)
Iowa Adam Haluska (basketball) Kineke Alexander (track)
Michigan Andrew Ellerton (track) Anna Willard (track)
Michigan State Jeff Lerg (ice hockey) Sara Brown (golf)
Minnesota Cole Konrad (wrestling)* Heather Dorniden (track)
Northwestern Matt Grevers (swimming) Garland Cooper (softball)
Ohio State Troy Smith (football) Jessica Davenport (basketball)*
Penn State Paul Posluszny (football) Shana Cox (track)
Purdue Anthony Spencer (football) Amanda Miller (diving)
Wisconsin Alando Tucker (basketball) Sara Bauer (ice hockey)