Wrestling's Cole Konrad and volleyball's Meredith Nelson garnered the male and female athlete of the year award at the inaugural Golden Goldys student-athlete gala, tonight at the Radisson Metrodome. Along with Konrad's individual honor, the wrestling team was named the male team of the year, while the women's track & field team was tabbed the female team of the year.
Konrad defended his NCAA heavyweight title this year to lead the Gopher wrestling team to its third national championship in the last seven years. Konrad became the fifth wrestler in school history to win three individual Big Ten titles and the fifth athlete in school history to earn All-America status four times in his career. With an undefeated record of 35-0, Konrad finished his Gopher career winning his last 76 matches, a school record. He was named the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year for the second time as he guided the Gophers to a their second straight Big Ten Championship this season. Konrad defeated track's Aaron Buzard, hockey's Alex Goligoski, golf's Bronson La'Cassie and football's Matt Spaeth.
Nelson was among of the nation's top 24 players, earning second-team All-America honors. A first-team All-Big Ten honoree, she was also a member of the NCAA regional all-tournament team. During her tenure with the Gophers, Nelson was a member of three Elite Eight teams in 2003, 2004 and 2006 and two Final Four teams in 2003 and 2004. She finished her career tied atop Minnesota's career block list with 536 in four years with the Golden Gophers. Nelson also ended her career as the school's all-time leader in block assists at 456. She was voted the award over track's Liz Alabi and Liz Roehrig, hockey's Gigi Marvin and swimming's Jenny Shaughnessy.
Wrestling dominated the national field winning both the Big Ten and NCAA Championships. Under the guidance of J Robinson, the Gophers won the 2007 National Duals title and went 20-1 during the regular season. The wrestling team won the award over the hockey team and the swimming and diving team.
The women's track & field team finished 19th at the NCAA Championships at the 2006 Outdoor NCAA Championships, producing three All-Americans. The Gophers, who are coached by Gary Wilson and Matt Bingle, won the 2006 Big Ten Outdoor Championship, garnering five Big Ten champions. During the 2007 indoor season, the Gophers won the 2007 Big Ten Championship, capturing three Big Ten titles. Along with their athletic success, the Gophers had 32 academic All-Big Ten honorees. The track team was voted as the top team over rowing and volleyball.
Track's Heather Dorniden was honored as the female rookie of the year. The 2006 outdoor Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Dorniden was the 2006 NCAA runner-up in the 800 meters. As a freshman, she set records in both the 400 and 800 meters. Along with her national status, Dorniden was the Big Ten runner-up in the 800 meters and placed third in the 1,500 meters. She beat out basketball's Brittany McCoy, soccer's Lyndsey Mueller and swimming's Deidre DeWall.
Hockey's Kyle Okposo was named the male rookie of the year for his performance this past season. As a rookie, Okposo finished second on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points and was named to the All-WCHA Second Team. A two-time WCHA Rookie of the Week honoree, Okposo was also named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team. He scored one of the most memorable goals in Gopher hockey history when he scored a goal between his legs against Minnesota State, Dec. 2. He defeated gymnastics' Andre Berry, swimming and diving's Ray Betuzzi and wrestling's Jayson Ness.
The event, similar to ESPN's ESPYS, featured the U of M student-athletes in formal attire. The reception was held from 6-6:45 p.m., while athletics director Joel Maturi recognized the seniors separately at 6:45 p.m. Following the special recognition, the seniors walked into a procession to kick off the awards ceremony. WCCO TV's Mark Rosen emceed the awards ceremony, while members of the athletics department and Student Athlete Advisory Council Committee announced the awards. The Radisson's entire second floor was reserved for the Golden Goldys, including eating areas, a photography room and a ceremony banquet room.
Golden Goldys Award Nominees (Winners in Bold)
Male Athlete of the Year
Aaron Buzard, Track & Field
Alex Goligoski, Hockey
Cole Konrad, Wrestling
Bronson La'Cassie, Golf
Matt Spaeth, Football
Female Athlete of the Year
Liz Alabi, Track & Field
Gigi Marvin, Hockey
Meredith Nelson, Volleyball
Liz Roehrig, Track & Field
Jenny Shaughnessy, Swimming & Diving
Male Rookie of the Year
Andre Berry, Gymnastics
Ray Betuzzi, Swimming & Diving
Jayson Ness, Wrestling
Kyle Okposo, Hockey
Female Rookie of the Year
Deidre DeWall, Swimming & Diving
Heather Dorniden, Track & Field
Brittany McCoy, Basketball
Lyndsey Mueller, Soccer
Male Team of the Year
Swimming & Diving
Female Team of the Year
Track & Field