2018 Victors Awards announced

James Krause

Student-athletes and coaches were recognized by the NIU Athletic Department Thursday for their achievements on and off the field at the 2018 NIU Victors Awards.

The event was held in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium where athletes and coaches from every sport represented NIU in a night of celebration of their accomplishments.

A big moment of the night was the reveal of the Play of the Year. Starting at six and being narrowed down to two, the winner of the award was freshman wrestler Nolan Baker.

Baker won the award for picking up a victory against Central Michigan’s No. 4 ranked wrestler, Justin Oliver. Baker said that it was a high pressure situation, and he succeeded thanks to his team.

“One of the things you realize is college wrestling is so tough,” Baker said. “You take any win you can get and one of that magnitude is just awesome to do, and it was possible because we have awesome coaches and supportive teammates that allow us to let cool stuff like that happen.”

Baker’s team and coach received recognition of their own. Wrestling Head Coach Ryan Ludwig won the Men’s Coach of the Year award.

The wrestling team won the Men’s Victor Cup, an award to the team that best shows development of athletics and academics while also reaching out to the community. The softball team was the winner of the Women’s Victor Cup.

The runner-up for Play of the Year was junior gymnast Anna Martucci for a school record 9.975 score in a floor routine in a meet against Western Michigan.

Martucci still received an award as she was named the Female Athlete of the Year. Martucci won eight first place finishes at meets this season, making her way to NCAA Regionals and being named MAC Specialist of the Year. Martucci said being nominated was an honor.

“It’s awesome,” Martucci said. “Even being nominated is such an honor among such great female athletes. They were all successful in what they did.”

The Gymnastics team was named the Female Team of the Year and Head Coach Sam Morreale won Women’s Coach of the Year.

Redshirt junior defensive end Sutton Smith of the football team won Male Athlete of the Year after leading the country in tackles and breaking a school record in sacks in 2017.

Smith said the night was a great opportunity for all student-athletes at NIU, saying everyone deserves credit for their work.

 “To think everyone thinks of me that way, that’s great and all, but I’m not the only great athlete in there,” Smith said. “All these athletes deserve this because they’re all special. Everyone has gone through trials and everything they need to do to be one of the best out there. I just can’t believe I got it.”

The football team won Male Team of the Year and redshirt senior offensive lineman Max Sharping was named Mr. Victor E for being named to the All-American Academic Second Team.

The awards were based on team performances from the spring, fall and winter of 2017 seasons.