Wrestler David Taylor became just the second Penn State male to be named the Big Ten’s Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year the conference announced on Monday.
The two-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner joins gymnast Luis Vargas (2005) as the only two Nittany Lion recipients of the honor, which was established in 1982.
Taylor had an incredible senior season as he helped lead the Nittany Lions to their fourth consecutive NCAA Championship. Taylor went 34-0 at 167 pounds and was the nation’s lone unbeaten wrestler. He was voted the Big Ten Wrestler of the Year and won the Hodge Trophy as the nation’s top wrestler.
For his career, Taylor finished with a 134-3 record, with two of the losses coming in NCAA championship matches. He tied the Penn State record with 53 pins. In addition, he had 42 technical falls and 30 major decisions, meaning that he earned bonus points for the Nittany Lions in 91 percent of his matches. Taylor never lost in a dual meet and was a perfect 56-0 all-time against Big Ten competition.
Taylor also was a four-time Academic All-American. He becomes the sixth wrestler to garner the Owens Award.
Purdue track & field standout Dani Bunch was named the Big Ten’s Female Athlete of the Year. Bunch was a three-time first-team All-American, with a third-place finish in the weight throw and fifth in the shot put during the NCAA Indoor Championships and a fifth-place finish in the shot put at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Volleyball standout Deja McClendon was Penn State’s nominee for the honor. McClendon helped lead the Nittany Lions to the national championship last season.
Six Penn State women have won the conference’s top honor since it began in 1983 — Olga Kalinovskaya (fencing, 1996), Lauren Cacciamani (volleyball, 2000), Christie Welsh (soccer, 2002), Kelly Mazzante (basketball, 2004), Tiffany Weimer (soccer, 2006) and Megan Hodge (volleyball, 2010).