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NEWTON, Iowa — Penn State University, which captured this year’s NCAA Division I national championship in Philadelphia, Pa., has also earned three of five important awards presented annually by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine (WIN).
Those three award winners are:
• Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and his entire athletic department, which was named the winner of the Mike Chapman Impact award;
• Nittany Lion head coach Cael Sanderson, who was named the Dan Gable Coach of the Year;
• Andrew Alton, the 141-pound true freshman for Penn State, who was named the winner of the Schalles Award as the nation’s top college pinner.
Meanwhile, Nick Gwiazdowski, a two-time New York state champion, was named the winner of the Junior Schalles Award as this country’s best high school pinner, and Andy Hamilton of the Iowa City Press Citizen was the WIN’s Journalist of the Year.
Mike Chapman Impact Award
This award is named after Mike Chapman, who created the honor in 1995 as the founder of WIN magazine and is presented annually to the person(s) who had the biggest influence on the sport in the past year.
“Penn State’s athletic leaders have shown remarkable vision, determination and commitment to the wrestling program for years, and the hiring of Cael Sanderson was the final pace of a complex puzzle,” said Chapman. “Penn State winning its first team title since 1953 is simply huge for the entire national wrestling community and I sincerely applaud athletic director Tim Curley and his staff for their all-important roles in making it happen.”
In addition to hiring Sanderson, Penn State used that enthusiasm to more than double PSU’s home attendance that was an average of 2,600 the year before Sanderson’s arrival in 2009 and 5,455 in 2010-10, when Penn State also featured two sellouts.
“Mr. Curley sent a message to the rest of the country that you can have an impact on your overall athletic department’s success by pursuing to be the best in wrestling,” said Penn State’s wrestling sports information director Pat Donghia. “It’s a message that was received very clearly in a very positive way by many programs around the country.
“I think Mr. Curley felt he could do three things at once: bring our program to the pinnacle of the entire wrestling world as far as the NCAA goes; send a message to the nation that you can be successful in every sport you want to be successful in; and let our wrestling alumni know that he is with them; that he feels the joy that they feel when Rec Hall is packed.”
Dan Gable Coach of the Year
Sanderson needed just two years to lead Penn State to the NCAA Promised Land by leading the Nittany Lions to the school’s first national championship since 1953 with a lineup that included six underclassmen in the lineup.
“To go to Penn State and win it in two years was a real challenge and a very difficult reality,” said Dan Gable, the legendary Iowa head coach who name was associated with this award since retiring from the sport in 1997. “When you look how quickly coaches can develop people, it doesn’t usually happen that fast, especially with the young guys on a team.”
“Our team did very well,” Sanderson said. “Did we over-perform? I don’t think so. We just have some exceptional student-athletes. If you look at individual’s success, I don’t think there are any surprises. We believe in our kids and try to be positive always. Young kids just need to know that their coaches believe in them … and we did.”
Sanderson, a native of Heber City, Utah, is the sport’s only four-time undefeated national champion and three-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner from Iowa State, where he was coaching for three years before leaving for Penn State
Schalles and Junior Schalles Awards
The Schalles and Junior Schalles Awards, presented annually by Cliff Keen Athletic and WIN to the nation’s best college and high school pinners, respectively, is named after Wade Schalles, who set the college pin record at Clarion (Pa.) State where he also won two NCAA championships (1972-73). During his career, Schalles defeated 153 of 159 opponents and pinned 109.
Alton, who won 30 of 40 matches in his true freshman season for the Nittany Lions, recorded the most falls (18) of any NCAA qualifier. This was a trend the native of Mill Hall, Pa., created when he attended Central Mountain High School where the two-time Pennsylvania state champion pinned 73 of 108 victims according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.
“As a true freshman and wrestling in the Big 10, how can you win The Schalles Award?” rhetorically quizzed Wade Schalles. “I guess it takes having the name Andrew Alton. “There is little doubt in my mind that he is going to smash the Nittany Lion record book for pins before he graduates.”
“I just brought a lot of the moves I had in high school,” said Alton, who actually wrestled at a heavier weight (145) as a high school senior. “I tried them and they worked and got a good number of pins this year.”
Gwiazdowski, meanwhile, did not allow any of his matches this past year go the distance while representing Duanesburg High School in upstate New York. During the regular season, he earned 43 pins in 50 matches. In the other seven bouts, six were forfeits and another was injury default. He also won the NHSCA Senior nationals in Virginia Beach, Va., where he pinned four of five foes and the other victory was by technical fall.
“Nick is maybe the very best pinner we’re ever looked at in the 15 years that the Junior Schalles Award has been in existence,” said Schalles.
“I knew that I would be a favorite to win state, so why not dominate everyone,” said Gwiazdowski, whose hometown of Delanson is four miles from his high school and about 30 miles northwest of Albany, N.Y. “I don’t want to leave a question in anyone’s mind if I only won by points. Why not pin everybody? You can’t argue a pin.”
WIN Journalist of the Year
Andy Hamilton primarily covers the University of Iowa for the Press-Citizen newspaper but has also had published works in many national media outlets, including ESPN and WIN.
“I’m proud that we’ve chosen Andy as our Journalist of the Year,” said WIN publisher Bryan Van Kley. “What makes Andy such a good wrestling writer is that he’s a guy who generally has a passion for the sport and enjoys the people involved with it.
“He’s not just a writer covering wrestling for his respective newspaper. He’s done a great job covering the University of Iowa, and makes fans feel that they have an inside track as to how things are going with the team and with what’s happening at their events.”
A native of Williams, Iowa, the 35-year-old Hamilton never got a chance to wrestle in high school because the school did not have wrestling. But he used his passion for sports and interest in wrestling — presented to him from his father, Merle, who wrestled for the University of Northern Iowa — to bring out the stories behind the stories of today’s wrestlers.
“I understand how much these guys sacrifice to put themselves in position to be elite wrestlers,” Hamilton said. “Sitting in the practice room and watching guys go at it for an hour and a half and how hard they work helps me understand it.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THESE AWARDS AND THIS YEAR’S AWARD-WINNERS, YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE TO WRESTLING INSIDER NEWSMAGAZINE BY CLICKING ON THE “SUBSCRIBE TO WIN” BUTTON ON THIS WEBSITE OR BY CALLING OUR OFFICE AT 1-888-305-0606.