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. The full list of nominees 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; 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. Today's athletes: Nick Sulzer and Morgan Brian.
Nick Sulzer - Wrestling - 165 lbs.
-- 3rd at ACC championships
-- Tied for 23rd at NCAA championships
-- First-ever Virginia Duals championship
-- ACC champion at 165 lbs.
-- National 4th place at 165 lbs.
-- 165 lb. champion at Las Vegas Invitational
-- 165 lb. 3rd place at Southern Scuffle
-- Second all-time UVa wrestler to earn multiple all-American recognitions
-- One-time ACC Wrestler of the Week
-- NWCA All-Academic team
Like volleyball, only a little further into the process, wrestling is a team we've had the pleasure of watching rise from obscurity to contention and a place on the national scene. Chris Henrich put UVa wrestling on the map with an ACC championship, and now we're into the second generation, if you will. Nick Sulzer is the one leading the way.
Not that there aren't other quality wrestlers on the team - Sulzer's wasn't the only individual ACC title - but no UVa wrestler this year finished anywhere near as high as Sulzer at NCAAs. Of UVa's 18.5 points, Sulzer's 4th-place finish earned 13.5 of them. Various other championships and invitationals established Sulzer as one of the top wrestlers in his weight class in the country. 4th in the country and tops in the ACC - that's an easy call for a nomination, and if that don't suit you and you want more, there's that all-academic recognition too. Exactly what we love to see out of our top student-athletes.
Morgan Brian - Women's soccer - Midfielder
-- ACC champions
-- Reached NCAA College Cup (that is, Final Four)
-- MAC Herrmann Trophy winner
-- NSCAA all-American
-- VaSID Player of the Year
-- Finalist for U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year
-- Top Drawer Soccer and Soccer America Women's Player of the Year
-- First-team all-ACC
-- NCAA all-tournament team
-- ACC all-tournament team
-- IMP Award as UVa's top female athlete
-- ACC scoring leader
-- Tied UVa single-season record for assists
-- 11 caps and two goals with USWNT
-- ACC all-academic team
Danielle Collins got a lot of rightly deserved pub in the comments section when I first announced the nominees, and I don't want to take one single thing away from her national title. But - the MAC Herrmann Trophy is soccer's Heisman, and that's kind of like a national championship too, right? Morgan Brian becomes the first female soccer player at UVa to win that award, joining really illustrious company on the men's side like Tony Meola and Claudio Reyna. Her win also makes UVa only the third school to have both men and women winners of the trophy.
When you're the best damn college player in the country - pretty much unanimously, really - further accolades come like a waterfall. There are some I didn't even bother with, like all-region recognition that was sort of implied by all-American recognition. Brian already has her eye on bigger things - she's become a fixture on the USWNT, and not the U-23 squad even though she's only 21, but the varsity, the real deal. She's the youngest player currently on the team and has started all 8 games she's appeared in during 2014, after making her debut last summer. This is a gal from whom we should expect big, big things when she eventually graduates - and still she's only a rising senior. I don't know who I'm going to vote for, and I don't reveal my vote til the winner is announced anyway, but damn if I wouldn't find it hard to vote against Morgan Brian.