Bo Nickal is the 2019 Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year

By Penn State Athletics | July 03, 2019, 11:16 a.m. (ET)

Bo Nickal being hoisted into the air by Penn State Head Coach Cael Sanderson after winning a national title. Photo by Larry Slater.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; July 3, 2019 Nittany Lion wrestler Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas) has been named the 2019 Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year. Nickal was honored from a field that featured each of the 14 Big Ten members’ Male Athletes of the Year.  Iowa women’s basketball player Megan Gustafson was named the 2019 Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year.

Nickal is the first Penn State student to be named Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year since fellow wrestler David Taylor was honored in 2014. He is the third Penn State male student to be recognized and 11th wrestler to win the award. Men’s gymnast Luis Vargas was the first Nittany Lion to be honored, earning the award in 2005.

The Allen, Texas, native was the 2019 NCAA Champion at 197 pounds and was honored with the 2019 Dan Hodge Trophy as the most outstanding college wrestler of the year. Nickal was named the 2019 Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Year (with teammate Jason Nolf) following a season in which he claimed his third Big Ten title. Overall, he was 120-3 at Penn State with 59 pins, 12 technical falls and 23 majors. He was 19-1 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, winning three national titles.

Nickal earned the 2019 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler accolade as he finished his senior season with a perfect 30-0 record. Nickal was part of four consecutive NCAA Championship teams with the Nittany Lions, winning the crown in each of his competitive seasons in State College. 

Nickal was recently voted Penn State Male Student-Athlete of the Year, the seventh Nittany Lion wrestler to be honored as such (and those seven grapplers earned nine total Penn State awards). Six Penn Staters have been named Female Athlete of the Year, the latest being women’s volleyball player Megan Hodge in 2010.

Nickal’s accolades are extensive:

  • 2019 NCAA Champion
  • 2019 Hodge Trophy Winner
  • 2019 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler
  • Second all-time in falls at Penn State (59 to Jason Nolf’s 60)
  • T-13th all-time on Penn State’s all-time wins list (120)
  • T-3rd all-time in NCAA tournament wins at Penn State (19)
  • 2019 Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Year (with teammate Jason Nolf)
  • 3X Big Ten Champion
  • Penn State’s 3rd 4X NCAA Finalist (w/ Jason Nolf and David Taylor)
  • Penn State’s 12th 4X All-American
  • Penn State’s 4th 3X NCAA Champion (w/ Jason Nolf, Zain Retherford and Ed Ruth)
  • 2019 Hodge Trophy Award
  • 2019 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler
  • 2016 NCAA Runner-Up, 2017 NCAA Champion, 2018 NCAA Champion, 2019 Champion
  • 2018 NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestler
  • 2017 NCAA Tournament Gorriaran Award
  • Academic All-Big Ten
  • NWCA First Team National All-Academic Honoree
  • Penn State’s Male Athlete of the Year for 2019
  • Ended season with perfect 30-0 record

Gustafson and Nickal were among a field of nominees that included 11 national champions, 25 All-Americans, 16 Big Ten Champions, 14 individuals who won Big Ten Player of the Year honors and six who collected a National Player of the Year accolade. The Big Ten Conference has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 and first honored a Female Athlete of the Year in 1983. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members from nominations submitted by each institution.

Iowa’s Gustafson is the first Iowa student since Kristy Gleason (field hockey) in 1994 to be recognized as the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year. She concluded her Iowa career as the most decorated Hawkeye in women’s basketball program history. She became the first Big Ten student to be named consensus national player of the year (Associated Press, ESPN, Naismith and the United States Basketball Writers Association).


1982 - Jim Spivey, Indiana, track and field/cross country

1983 - Ed Banach, Iowa, wrestling

1984 - Sunder Nix, Indiana, track and field

1985 - Barry Davis, Iowa, wrestling

1986 - Chuck Long, Iowa, football

1987 - Steve Alford, Indiana, basketball

1988 - Jim Abbott, Michigan, baseball

1989 - Glen Rice, Michigan, basketball

1990 - Anthony Thompson, Indiana, football

1991 - Mike Barrowman, Michigan, swimming

1992 - Desmond Howard, Michigan, football

1993 - John Roethlisberger, Minnesota, gymnastics

1994 - Glenn Robinson, Purdue, basketball

1995 - Tom Dolan, Michigan, swimming

1996 - Eddie George, Ohio State, football

1997 - Blaine Wilson, Ohio State, gymnastics

1998 - Charles Woodson, Michigan, football

1999 - Luke Donald, Northwestern, golf

2000 - Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, football

2001 - Ryan Miller, Michigan State, ice hockey

2002 - Jordan Leopold, Minnesota, ice hockey

2003 - Amer Delic, Illinois, tennis (co)

2003 - Matt Lackey, Illinois, wrestling (co)

2004 - Damion Hahn, Minnesota, wrestling

2005 - Luis Vargas, Penn State, gymnastics

2006 - Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan, swimming

2007 - Cole Konrad, Minnesota, wrestling

2008 - Brent Metcalf, Iowa, wrestling

2009 - Jake Herbert, Northwestern, wrestling

2010 - Evan Turner, Ohio State, basketball

2011 - David Boudia, Purdue, diving

2012 - Draymond Green, Michigan State, basketball

2013 - Derek Drouin, Indiana, track and field

2014 - David Taylor, Penn State, wrestling

2015 - Logan Stieber, Ohio State, wrestling

2016 - Denzel Valentine, Michigan State, basketball

2017 - Kyle Snyder, Ohio State, wrestling

2018 - Kyle Snyder, Ohio State, wrestling

2019 – Bo Nickal, Penn State, wrestling


1983 - Judi Brown, Michigan State, track and field

1984 - Lisa Ishikawa, Northwestern, softball

1985 - Cathy Branta, Wisconsin, cross country/track

1986 - Stephanie Herbst, Wisconsin, cross country/track

1987 - Jennifer Averill, Northwestern, field hockey/lacrosse

1988 - Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, track and field/cross country

1989 - Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, track and field/cross country

1990 - Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, track and field/cross country

1991 - Julie Farrell-Ovenhouse, Michigan State, diving (co)

1991 - Joy Holmes, Purdue, basketball (co)

1992 - MaChelle Joseph, Purdue, basketball

1993 - Lara Hooiveld, Michigan, swimming

1994 - Kristy Gleason, Iowa, field hockey

1995 - Laura Davis, Ohio State, volleyball

1996 - Olga Kalinovskaya, Penn State, fencing

1997 - Kathy Butler, Wisconsin, track and field (co)

1997 - Gretchen Hegener, Minnesota, swimming (co)

1998 - Sara Griffin, Michigan, softball

1999 - Stephanie White-McCarty, Purdue, basketball

2000 - Lauren Cacciamani, Penn State, volleyball

2001 - Katie Douglas, Purdue, basketball

2002 - Christie Welsh, Penn State, soccer

2003 - Perdita Felicien, Illinois, track and field

2004 - Kelly Mazzante, Penn State, basketball

2005 - Jennie Ritter, Michigan, softball

2006 - Tiffany Weimer, Penn State, soccer

2007 - Jessica Davenport, Ohio State, basketball

2008 - Hannah Nielsen, Northwestern, lacrosse

2009 - Maria Hernandez, Purdue, golf

2010 - Megan Hodge, Penn State, volleyball

2011 - Shannon Smith, Northwestern, lacrosse

2012 - Christina Manning, Ohio State, track and field

2013 - Amanda Kessel, Minnesota, ice hockey

2014 - Dani Bunch, Purdue, track and field

2015 - Taylor Cummings, Maryland, lacrosse

2016 - Rachel Banham, Minnesota, basketball

2017 - Lilly King, Indiana, swimming

2018 - Lilly King, Indiana, swimming

2019 – Megan Gustafson, Iowa, basketball

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