Neal named as top five finalist for 70th annual James E Sullivan Award

By Gary Abbott | Feb. 17, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)

1999 World Freestyle Wrestling Champion Stephen Neal (Bakersfield, Calif./Dave Schultz WC) was named as one of the five finalists for the 70th Annual AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award, sponsored by LamisilAT. The winner will be formally announced on April 6, 2000, during a ceremony at ESPNZone in New York City.

The Sullivan Award recognizes athletes who have achieved athletic excellence, exhibit leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. It has been presented annually by the AAU since 1930 as a salute to founder and past president of the AAU, James E. Sullivan.

This year's other finalists are: Kelly & Coco Miller (women's basketball), Ron Dayne (football), Stacey Nuveman (softball) and Mark Ruiz (diving).

Two-time Olympic Champions John Smith (1990) and Bruce Baumgartner (1995) are the only wrestlers to win the James E. Sullivan Award.

Neal was the 1999 World Champion at 286 pounds, the top U.S. wrestling performance in 1999. He was competing in his first World Championships event. His performance led the United States to a strong second place team finish.

Neal defeated two-time World bronze medalist Andrei Shumilin of Russia in the gold-medal finals, 4-3. He won five matches on the way to the title - and was competing in his first World Championships.

He won a gold medal in every tournament he entered in 1999, and ended the season with an 18-1 freestyle record. Neal was the 1999 Pan American Games champion and defeated 1998 World Champion Alexis Rodriguez of Cuba in the gold medal finals, 8-7.

Neal also won his first career gold medals at the 1999 Freestyle World Team Trials and the 1999 U.S. Nationals. He was named Outstanding Wrestler at the U.S. Freestyle National Championships, after defeating veteran Tom Erikson in the gold medal finals. At the World Team Trials, Neal stopped 1998 World Team member Kerry McCoy in the best-of-three series. Neal was also the 1999 University Nationals freestyle champion.

He was also the 1999 NCAA Div. I champion for Cal-State Bakersfield, his second straight NCAA title. He was the winner of the 1999 Dan Hodge Trophy, awarded by W.I.N. magazine to the best college wrestler.

Neal now serves as an assistant wrestling coach at Cal-State Bakersfield. He is originally from San Diego, Calif.

Voting for the 1999 James E. Sullivan Award Sponsored by LamisilAT is completed by the AAU Board of Directors, the USOC Board of Directors, the AAU Sullivan Award Committee and members of the sports media. The accounting firm, Accurate Business Services of Marietta, GA, officially tabulates ballots. This year's award recipient will receive a bronze replica of the original Sullivan trophy mounted on a black pedestal, depicting a runner carrying a laurel branch.

The AAU James E. Sullivan Memorial Award is sponsored by LamisilAT Cream, the best way to cure your athlete's foot. LamisilAT Cream is manufactured and marketed by Novartis Consumer Health, which is headquartered in Summit, New Jersey, and is a leading consumer pharmaceuticals and food company. The Division includes Gerber Products Company, Novartis OTC (over-the counter medicines), Health and Functional Nutrition and Medical Nutrition. Focusing on consumer needs and preferences, each NCH Sector provides well-known, high-quality products to enhance overall health and well-being for millions of American consumers each day.