Penn State wrestling standout Bo Nickal named Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
Penn State's Bo Nickal, left, wins his 197-pound match against Ohio State's Kollin Moore in the finals of the NCAA wrestling championships Saturday, March 23, 2019 in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Even though the 2018-19 wrestling season has been in the books since March, the accolades keep piling up for Penn State’s Bo Nickal.

With the Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Year, NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler, 2019 Hodge Trophy and Penn State Male Athlete of Year awards already under his belt this year, the three-time national champ was named the 2019 Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year on Tuesday by a panel of conference media members.

Recognized annually since 1982, the honor is bestowed on one male and one female athlete of the year from each of the Big Ten’s 14 schools. Nickal, along with national champion swimmer Ally McHugh, were named Penn State’s athletes of the year on June 24. On the women’s side, the conference award went to Iowa basketball standout Megan Gustafson.

This marks the third year in a row that a wrestler has won the award, with Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder bringing home the honor in 2018 and 2017. Nickal is the third Penn Stater to be named the Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year, with fellow wrestler David Taylor winning in 2014, and gymnast Luis Vargas in 2005. 

Nickal capped off a historic career with the Nittany Lions in March, when he won his third national championship in his fourth finals appearance with a 5-1 decision over Ohio State’s Kollin Moore in Pittsburgh.

“It’s really been blessing after blessing. Since the first time I stepped foot on campus it’s been incredible,” he said after that final match.

Nickal finished his career with a 120-3 record with 59 pins, 12 technical falls and 23 major decisions. He led all other wrestlers this season in dominance, earning bonus points in 90 percent of his matches, with 18 pins, three tech falls and six major decisions. Nickal became just the third Penn Stater to make the NCAA finals four times, and the fourth three-time champ.

Busy on freestyle circuit: Since hanging up his blue and white singlet, Nickal has been busy on the freestyle circuit. He sailed through the 92 kilogram field at the U.S. Open in April, then made quick work of former North Carolina State wrestler Mike Macchiavello to earn a spot in Final X Rutgers for a chance to take on reigning World Champ J’Den Cox.

Although he lost both matches against Cox, Nickal did successfully apply for a special best-of-three wrestle-off against Oklahoma’s Jakob Woodley for a spot on the U23 World Team.

The date for that wrestle-off has not yet been determined.