From Old Virginia celebrates its birthday in a unique way: by recognizing one of Virginia's student-athletes as the Cavalier of the Year. What are the criteria for the award? You decide; that's the beauty. I nominate the 12 athletes that I think have been the most outstanding during the latest season of UVA athletics, and provide a short summary of their accomplishments. You choose the winner in a poll that goes up after all 12 have had their moment in the spotlight. In fact, there are 13 this year, and the list of nominations is here.
Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; part of the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. The previous winners are Danny Hultzen (2009, 2011) and Diego Restrepo (2010); today's athlete's are Matt Snyder and Keith Werman.
Matt Snyder - Wrestling - 125 lbs
-- 11-1 regular season record - best in school history
-- 2nd at ACC championships
-- Tied for 28th place at NCAAs
-- Spent entire season ranked in top 25
-- ACC champion at 125 pounds
-- 2-2 record at NCAA championships (#11 national seed)
-- VaSID all-state
-- ACC wrestling scholar-athlete of the year
-- CoSIDA third-team academic all-American
-- NWCA all-academic team
-- Lawn resident
You want to know what UVA's latest up-and-coming sport is? It's not football or basketball - they don't count because they've been good before and will be again. It's not baseball - the Hoos are too well-established these days. Try wrestling, where UVA's program history is just one of basically existing.
That's changing, though, and UVA's wrestlers are starting to pile up the ACC individual championships, and the team is moving swiftly up the ladder. Matt Snyder is one of those; in fact, his 11-seed at the NCAAs makes him one of the nation's top 125-pound grapplers.
So while Snyder is one of the top wrestlers on the team, he's even better in the classroom. There are about 3,500 fourth-years in any given year at UVA, and only 108 Lawn rooms, one of which was occupied by Snyder. We had several athletes nominated for academic all-American status by CoSIDA, the sports info directors' association, and Snyder was the only one to actually receive the distinction. You could argue that makes him our top student-athlete. That's a big deal at a school that prizes academic achievement in its athletes as much as it prizes athletic achievement.
Keith Werman - Baseball - Second base
-- NCAA Regional host
-- 39-19 season record
-- Second-team all-ACC
All right, I'll admit: there's a little bit of a lifetime-achievement aspect to this nomination. Keith Werman - known to fans as the Ninja - is not necessarily the most-decorated of nominees we've had. Hell, he didn't even get picked in the MLB draft. (He was, though, the only UVA position player to earn any all-ACC recognition this year, and by the way it's the second time he's been selected for that.)
That said, ask anyone who the best ballplayer is on this squad, which overachieved like you wouldn't believe this season, and this is the likely answer. Werman wasn't drafted because he's tiny and will never hit for power, but the technical aspects of his game are flawless. His knowledge of the game is so expansive, in fact, that he was this season's backup catcher in addition to his second base duties. Werman was the team's best glove man with his .991 fielding percentage exceeded only by Jared King (who's a first baseman and thus most of his "chances" involve catching a throw.) As a three-year starter and senior leader, it couldn't have been plainer Werman was the heart and soul of this year's team, even as the #9 hitter. Though overshadowed on the stat sheet (which isn't to imply he can't measure up - all-ACC, after all) Werman is a fan favorite and the consummate ballplayer; it's truthfully impossible to justify another selection off the baseball team for COTY.