The wrestling season has been over for a little more than three months now, but rising senior Zain Retherford keeps on reeling in the hardware — and his next trophy might just come on national TV.
ESPN announced on Wednesday afternoon that Retherford was one of five ESPYS nominees for Best Male College Athlete. Retherford is going up against Clemson football’s DeShaun Watson, Maryland lacrosse’s Matt Rambo, Kansas basketball’s Frank Mason and Wake Forest soccer’s Ian Harkes.
Neither the Nittany Lions nor any Big Ten team has ever won the ESPY for male athlete of the year. In fact, only one college wrestler has ever won the honor — and that just happens to be former Iowa State Cyclone, and current Penn State head coach, Cael Sanderson in 2002.
The winners will be announced during the 25th ESPYS awards show at 8 p.m. July 12 on ABC. Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is hosting.
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Retherford (149 pounds) has a strong claim for the award. The three-time All-American has won 63 straight bouts and is a two-time NCAA champion. He was named the 2017 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler, won the Hodge Trophy (wrestling’s Heisman), grabbed InterMat’s Wrestler of the Year award and claimed the Schalles Award as the nation’s top pinner. He was also named USA Wrestling’s Athlete of the Week on June 13, days after securing a spot on the U.S. Senior Men’s Freestyle World Team by beating his former coach, Frank Molinaro.
He’s the first Penn State nominee since 2014 when David Taylor was named a finalist, before losing out to Creighton basketball’s Doug McDermott. The last Big Ten nominee came in 2015 from Ohio State wrestling’s Logan Stieber, who instead saw Oregon football’s Marcus Mariota walk away with the trophy.
Fans can vote for Retherford — or someone else — right here.
Past winners of Best Male College Athlete
The ESPYS first started the category of Best Male College Athlete in 2002. Here’s a list of the past winners:
2002: Cael Sanderson, wrestling, Iowa State
2003: Carmelo Anthony, basketball, Syracuse
2004: Emeka Okafor, basketball, UConn
2005: Matt Leinart, football, USC
2006: Reggie Bush, football, USC
2007: Kevin Durant, basketball, Texas
2008: Tim Tebow, football, Florida
2009: Tim Tebow, football, Florida
2010: John Wall, basketball, Kentucky
2011: Jimmer Fredette, basketball, BYU
2012: Robert Griffin III, football, Baylor
2013: Johnny Manziel, football, Texas A&M
2014: Doug McDermott, basketball, Creighton
2015: Marcus Mariota, football, Oregon
2016: Buddy Hield, basketball, Oklahoma