2019 Starts with a Nittany Lion Roar
Penn State has a knack for attracting and recruiting stellar athletics into all its many athletic programs. Is it because of the school’s reputation for launching these students into the pros? Or because of the deeply-held belief in and dedication to philanthropy and community outreach that runs through Penn State’s faculty, students and alumni. Or maybe it’s a combination of both, and these student athletes find kindred spirits in our Nittany Lion pride, all of whom demonstrate the strength of heart, character, mind and body that makes Penn State a respected and honored name world-wide.
Whatever the reason for their choosing to call Penn State home, one fact always remains clear: Penn State athletes are some of the best in the country, and 2019 is already showing us why. Between championships, ever-growing dynasties, new hope and the largest student-led philanthropy in the world, our athletes and students prove why the Nittany Lions are the best of the best.
Let’s step back in time, all the way back to 1973 when a group of students vowed to find a way to give back to the community that had given them so much. Former IFC President Bill Lear ‘72–’73 proposed a Dance Marathon whose proceeds could be donated to a worthy cause, never suspecting his idea would grow into the world’s largest student-run philanthropy. That first year, what was then called the IFC Dance Marathon ran for 30 hours in the HUB ballroom and raised over $2,000. This year, for the eighth consecutive year, THON raised over $10 million that will be used to fund treatments and research and provide support for families fighting childhood cancer. For exact financials and information on how many students were involved this year, check out their website!
It isn’t just students and clubs that get involved with THON. This year, dozens of student athletes from 18 teams participated in Athlete Hour and a pep rally. Children benefitting from the Four Diamonds outreach, the sole beneficiary to funds raised at THON, get to hang out and play games with Penn State’s best athletes. Not only that, each team puts together a dance routine and compete in a dance-off, which the en’s gymnastics team won for the third consecutive year.
Student athletes don’t just dance, they take their outreach to the front lines. Four represented Penn States’s Student Athlete Advisory Board as dancers, and the organization raised $70, 396.25. A fifth student athlete dancer represented another organization.
In the words of our amazingly strong and kind Penn State student leaders, “One day we will dance in celebration. Until then, we will dance for a cure.”
Maintaining the Penn State Wrestling Dynasty
This past weekend, the Penn State wrestling team added their sixth Big Ten Conference Championship to their record as they claimed the team title, as well as four individual titles, coming in first over Ohio State. But these lions are no strangers to success. They are the reigning
National Champions, and since former Olympic Champion Cael Sanderson became head coach at the tail end of the 2010 season, he has led them to the team national championship each year starting in 2011, with 2015 as the sole exception, and the individual national championships every year starting in 2011 with no exceptions.
Our four individual Big Ten champions are Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, Anthony Cassar and Mark Hall. Hall added a little something special to an interview with the Big Ten Network after his win, proving, once again, that Penn State student athletes are a cut above the rest, not only in sportsmanship and athleticism, but also in heart. Hall pulled out his recorder, a wood-wind instrument I’m sure we all remember fondly—or not so fondly—from elementary school and played a rendition of Hot Cross Buns on live TV in front of a cheering crowd.
Turns out, Hall made a deal with FloWrestling, a wrestling-focused website, that if Hall not only won his weight class, but played his recorder and donated $100 to THON, they would make an additional $400 donation to the charity.
Hall serves as a reminder of what is truly most important to Penn State student athletes. They play for one of the top athletic schools in the nation, earning accolades, championship trophies and titles, but they aren’t just in it to win. Their success, and Penn State’s legacy of success, gives them a platform to bring awareness to philanthropic causes that are important to them and the school. It allows them to show that Penn State raises not only exceptional athletes, but exceptional men and women.
Men’s ice hockey is growing up fast
Post-season men’s ice hockey is in full swing, and our Nittany Lions are leading the way. This weekend, the Lions played a three-game quarterfinal series against the Wisconsin Badgers on home ice in Pegula Ice Arena. Despite a close loss on Friday, with the backing of their proud and spirited fans who filled the Roar Zone and the rest of the Pegula Ice Arena, the Nittany Lions rebounded to win both games two and three, advancing them to the semifinals where they will face long-time school rival and top-seeded Ohio State away in Columbus.
Men’s hockey was only introduced to the Big Ten six years ago, about the same time Penn State men’s ice hockey was moved up to NCAA Division I level. Out of those six years, Penn State has moved to the semifinals five times, claiming the conference championship in 2017 over Wisconsin, the very team they trounced this weekend. In their short time as an NCAA Division I team, they have also appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2017 and 2018.
Prior to their move to the NCAA, Penn State played in the ACHA, where they were tournament champions seven times and made 29 tournament appearances. This history of success proves that, although they are new to their new home in the higher-level division, the tenacity, strength, courage and heart of our boys can’t be beat. Watch out, Buckeyes! The Lions are coming for you!
Penn State Nittany Lion student athletes have something special inside them, the very same spirit they share with Penn Staters across the country and around the world. They share their triumphs with us, and we support them through their—very few—losses. These are but a few examples of the many exemplary student athletes that learn to be leaders in the halls and on the field of Dear Old State and pave the way for the new generations of the Penn State Nittany Lion pride.