Nickal and McHugh selected as Penn State student-athletes of the year

By Penn State University Athletics | June 24, 2019, 11:11 a.m. (ET)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State Athletics has announced its Female and Male Student-Athletes of the Year, with NCAA champions Ally McHugh (Philadelphia, Pa./Little Flower Catholic) and Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas/Allen) earning the honors for the highly successful 2018-19 academic year.  

McHugh is the second member of the women’s swimming and diving program to earn Female Student-Athlete of the Year, joining Fran McDermid, who was the recipient in 1991-92 and 1992-93. Nickal becomes the seventh Nittany Lion wrestler to earn Male Student-Athlete of the Year, a total of nine times, with Zain Retherford in 2015-16 and 2016-17 the last wrestling honoree. 

McHugh and Nickal will be on the ballot for Big Ten Male and Female Athletes of the Year with honorees from the other 13 conference institutions. 

Saquon Barkley (football) and Haleigh Washington (women’s volleyball) were Penn State’s 2017-18 honorees.

The honors are the latest in a long list of athletic and academic accolades for the two standout student-athletes, both of whom graduated in May.

Bo Nickal

Bo Nickal established himself as the nation’s top wrestler this season, winning his third consecutive NCAA title (this one at 197) and helping lead the Penn State wrestlers to the 2019 NCAA Championship. Nickal ended his senior season with a perfect 30-0 record, including 18 pins, three technical falls and six majors. 

Nickal graduated from Penn State with a 120-3 career record, with 59 pins, 12 techs and 23 majors. In all, 94 of his 120 wins (78.3 percent) were for bonus points.

Among Nickal’s honors: 2019 Hodge Trophy Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate wrestler, 19-1 career all-time record in the NCAA Championship; 2019 Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Year (shared with teammate Jason Nolf); a three-time NCAA Champion, four-time NCAA finalist and four-time All-American and the 2019 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler.  

Prior accolades for Nickal include being selected the 2018 NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestler and 2017 NCAA Tournament Gorriaran Award recipient. He ends his career second on Penn State’s all-time pins list (59); T-3rd on Penn State’s all-time NCAA wins list (19); and T-13th on Penn State’s all-time wins list (120). Nickal also was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree, was a first team NWCA National All-Academic selection and won the 2019 U.S. Open title this past April.

During Nickal’s career at Penn State, he helped the squad continue its dominance as the nation’s top wrestling program, which has won eight NCAA Championships since 2011. Nickal was a leader on teams that won four NCAA Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), two Big Ten tournament titles (2016 and 2019), four Big Ten regular season (dual meet) titles (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), post four straight undefeated dual meet seasons, meaning Nickal never lost a dual meet as a collegiate wrestler, and won two NWCA Dual Championship Series crowns.