McHugh and Nickal Selected Student-Athletes of the Year
NCAA individual national champions honored as Penn State’s top student-athletes for 2018-19
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; June 24, 2019 – Penn State Athletics has announced its Female and Male Student-Athletes of the Year, with NCAA champions Ally McHugh (Philadelphia, Pa./Little Flower Catholic) and Bo Nickal (Allen, Texas/Allen) earning the honors for the highly successful 2018-19 academic year.
McHugh is the second member of the women’s swimming and diving program to earn Female Student-Athlete of the Year, joining Fran McDermid, who was the recipient in 1991-92 and 1992-93. Nickal becomes the seventh Nittany Lion wrestler to earn Male Student-Athlete of the Year, a total of nine times, with Zain Retherford in 2015-16 and 2016-17 the last wrestling honoree.
McHugh and Nickal will be on the ballot for Big Ten Male and Female Athletes of the Year with honorees from the other 13 conference institutions.
Saquon Barkley (football) and Haleigh Washington (women’s volleyball) were Penn State’s 2017-18 honorees.
The honors are the latest in a long list of athletic and academic accolades for the two standout student-athletes, both of whom graduated in May.
Ally McHugh became the first swimmer in Penn State women's swimming and diving history to win an NCAA individual championship, capturing the 1650 freestyle at the 2019 NCAA Swimming & Diving Championships. The gold medal was her second NCAA medal overall, as she earned a silver in the same event at the 2018 NCAA Championships. A member of the U.S National team, McHugh also won the women's 400 IM at the 2018 USA Swimming National Championships.
A two-time All-American by virtue of her two medal-winning performances at NCAA’s, she also was a four-time honorable mention All-America in the 500 free (2018), 1650 free (2017) and 400 IM (2017, 2019). At the Big Ten Championships, McHugh was a four-time champion or runner-up, earning two gold and two silver during her career. She claimed gold in the 2018 and 2019 in the 1650 free, setting a meet record with her 2018 swim (15:43.34), and she brought home silver in the 400 IM in 2017 and 2018. McHugh holds Penn State records in the 500 free, 1000 free, 1650 free and 400 IM.
McHugh took 21 credits during her final semester to graduate in May with a degree in biobehavioral health. Her efforts in the classroom and pool earned her College Swimming Coaches Association of America Academic All-American honors.
The Philadelphia native was selected Penn State’s 2018-19 female recipient of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, the conference’s most prestigious accolade, which recognizes academic and athletic excellence. McHughalso was among several recipients of the University’s 2018-19 John W. Oswald Award, which annually recognizes graduating seniors who have provided outstanding leadership in at least one of several areas of activity at the University.
Bo Nickal established himself as the nation’s top wrestler this season, winning his third consecutive NCAA title (this one at 197) and helping lead the Penn State wrestlers to the 2019 NCAA Championship. Nickal ended his senior season with a perfect 30-0 record, including 18 pins, three technical falls and six majors.
Nickal graduated from Penn State with a 120-3 career record, with 59 pins, 12 techs and 23 majors. In all, 94 of his 120 wins (78.3 percent) were for bonus points.
Among Nickal’s honors: 2019 Hodge Trophy Award winner as the nation’s top collegiate wrestler, 19-1 career all-time record in the NCAA Championship; 2019 Co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Year (shared with teammate Jason Nolf); a three-time NCAA Champion, four-time NCAA finalist and four-time All-American and the 2019 NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler.
Prior accolades for Nickal include being selected the 2018 NCAA Tournament Outstanding Wrestler and 2017 NCAA Tournament Gorriaran Award recipient. He ends his career second on Penn State’s all-time pins list (59); T-3rd on Penn State’s all-time NCAA wins list (19); and T-13th on Penn State’s all-time wins list (120). Nickal also was an Academic All-Big Ten honoree, was a first team NWCA National All-Academic selection and won the 2019 U.S. Open title this past April.
During Nickal’s career at Penn State, he helped the squad continue its dominance as the nation’s top wrestling program, which has won eight NCAA Championships since 2011. Nickal was a leader on teams that won four NCAA Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019), two Big Ten tournament titles (2016 and 2019), four Big Ten regular season (dual meet) titles (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019), post four straight undefeated dual meet seasons, meaning Nickal never lost a dual meet as a collegiate wrestler, and won two NWCA Dual Championship Series crowns.
Penn State Among the Nation’s Most Comprehensive and Successful Athletic Programs
Under the leadership of Vice President for Intercollegiate Athletics Sandy Barbour, Penn State has one of the nation’s most comprehensive and successful athletic programs, featuring 800 student-athletes across 31 varsity programs (16 men’s, 15 women’s).
Nittany Lion students have posted an NCAA Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of 90 percent the past two years, which ties Penn State’ all-time high. Eight teams earned a 100 percent graduation rate in the 2018 NCAA Graduation Rates Report. The Nittany Lions rank No. 4 among all Division I schools with 204 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans all-time and broke the school record with 368 Academic All-Big Ten honorees in 2018-19 (3.0 GPA or higher).
Penn State’s 51 NCAA Championships all-time (79 national championships overall) rank No. 5 among all NCAA Division I programs and are the highest total of any college or university east of the Mississippi River. Penn State’s 21 NCAA titles since 2007 are tied for No. 3 in the nation and lead all Big Ten Conference institutions. The Nittany Lions have won 113 Big Ten championships or tournament titles since capturing their first crown in 1992-93, including six during the 2018-19 academic year.