MARQUETTE, Mich. – The Northern Michigan University Athletic Department completed the inaugural Wildcat Awards where the department presented end of season awards for the 2018-19 athletic year.
| TEAM OF THE YEAR
The Wildcat Women's Basketball team posted 23 wins this season with four wins coming against ranked opponents, including two wins over top-seven programs in less than a week. The season started with a victory over #25 Lewis in the season opener. Later in the season, NMU defeated #9 Grand Valley State University for GVSU's only GLIAC loss of the year. After defeating Ferris State in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals, the Wildcats faced GVSU on their home court for the GLIAC Semifinals and came away with another win over the #7 Lakers to advance to the GLIAC Championship. In the NCAA DII Midwest Regional Quarterfinals, the Wildcats defeated #4 Ashland to reach the Regional Semifinals.
Guided by their defense, the 2018-19 team finished the season ranked third in Division II as they allowed just 52.1 points per game. This defense held Ashland to 30 points below their average in both the GLIAC Championship and the NCAA Tournament matchups. The squad allowed fewer than 40 points five times this season, with the 36 allowed against Lake Superior State the fewest allowed since the 2011-12 season.
During the 18-19 season Head Coach Troy Mattson captured his 200th career-win, senior Darby Youngstrom (Cook, Minn.) and sophomore Lexi Smith (St. Germain, Wis.) both earned Player of the Week honors and were named First Team All-GLIAC, junior Jessica Schultz (Mineral Point, Wis.) was named All-GLIAC Second Team and joined senior Sydney Dillinger (Houghton, Mich.) on the All-Defensive Team.
| MALE ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Senior Naba Echols (Memphis, Tenn.) from Men's Basketball averaged 19.2 points per game for second in the league while his 19.1 points per GLIAC game placed him in a tie for first. He also led the Wildcats with 3.7 assists per game. Reaching 20 points in 17 games this season, the point guard was named GLIAC Player of the Week multiple times this season on his way to earning First Team All-GLIAC for the second-straight year.
Hockey senior Troy Loggins (Huntington Beach, Cailf.) became the 17th player in program history to earn All-American honors as he was named a Second Team All-American. The senior forward earned multiple league awards as he was named First Team All-WCHA, WCHA Forward of the Year and WCHA Player of the Year after notching 23 goals and 17 assists. His 23 goals placed him second in the country and led the nation with 10 power play goal and three short-handed goals. Troy was named WCHA Forward of the Week two times and recorded his first career hat trick in the final weekend at Michigan Tech.
| FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Women's Basketball Senior Darby Youngstrom (Cook, Minn.) returned from an injury suffered her junior year to lead the team with 11.3 points per game, and 2.1 assists on her way to being named First Team All-GLIAC in 2018-19. In a double-overtime victory at Ferris State, Darby scored a career-high 25 points then scored 26 points in the GLIAC Championship game. In the NCAA Tournament, the senior averaged 13 points and 5.8 rebounds. Throughout the season, Darby reached 15 points in nine games and was named GLIAC Player of the Week twice.
| GILDO CANALE OUTSTANDING SENIOR ATHLETE
Senior Nordic skier Ian Torchia (Rochester, N.Y.) is one of the most decorated athletes in the Nordic Skiing program. Ian has earned six All-American honors at the NCAA National Championships and one National Championship as a Wildcat. Ian was named the team's Newcomer of the Year his freshman season then followed it with two All-American honors and a team Co-MVP award his sophomore season. He highlighted his junior season with a National Championship in the 20K Freestyle along with two more All-American awards on his way to being named the USCSCA Nordic Skier of the Year. In his senior season, Torchia capped his stellar career with his final two All-American honors to tie him for the most All-American honors in program history.
Cross country and track and field's senior Shayla Huebner (Marquette, Mich.) from Cross Country and Track & Field has four individual school records, holding Indoor Track & Field records in the 400, 600 and 800 meter runs and Outdoor Track & Field 400-meter run. She is a member of both 4x400 relay teams with school records plus the DIstance Medley Relay. The senior has earned two All-American honors and has won the GLIAC Commissioner's Award two times and has earned GLIAC All-Academic Excellence recognition throughout her career. She has also earned Eight All-GLIAC honors along with Two All-Region honors.
| HUMANITARIAN OF THE YEAR
Senior Aaron Rochow (Richland, Mich.) from the NMU football team helped organize many events during his senior season, including organizing the Tackling Hunger Food Drive at the Northwood football game and coordinating with the Jacobetti Home for Veterans to help veterans attend the Lawrence Tech game. In addition, Aaron coordinated the reading program with local elementary schools, forged partnerships with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters and organized a team collection of free hotel toiletries for our local homeless shelter.
| BRIAN FRANKS TOO STRONG AWARD
One of several new awards presented was the Brian Franks Too Strong Award. Brian Franks was an all U.P. dream team, all-state and hall-of-fame offensive linemen from Escanaba, Michigan. Brian later became the leader of the NMU offensive line during some of the most prolific running attacks in Wildcat football history, earning him all GLIAC first team and most valuable lineman honors. Brian was a critical senior leader on the 1987 undefeated GLIAC champions and #1 ranked NCAA Division II football team in the nation. He was a truly great football player, leader and teammate.
This award has nothing to do with Brian's athletic accomplishments. In 2009, Brian was first diagnosed with cancer and began a journey of battling this horrible disease. For the next nine years, Brian endured several major surgeries, years of chemotherapy, and countless efforts undergoing experimental procedures and medications to try and hold off the effects of this mysterious and deadly disease.
Throughout this time, as he physically deteriorated, Brian continued to be an amazing father, devoted husband and special friend. He somehow managed to continue to be a highly successful business person, despite the tremendous physical and emotional hardships he faced. And although he had every right to be down, angry, and focused on himself, he was the opposite — always sharing a smile or a joke, upbeat and more concerned about his beautiful wife Ann, his amazing children, Zach, Abby, and Grace, his parents, brothers and even his goofball Wildcat friends, than he was concerned about himself.
Brian was quite simply TOO STRONG to let anything prevent him from being the man he intended to be and to make those around him better by his presence.
On February 21, 2018, Brian left this earth. At his memorial, on a card bearing Brian's picture with his usual smile, he left us with two quotes that summed up Brian's attitude toward his 9-year battle:
First quoting the late great NC State Basketball Coach Jim Valvano: "Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever."
And from the late ESPN Announcer, Stuart Scott: "When you die, it does not mean that you lose to cancer, you beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner which you live."
"Senior Taylor Hodell, a 6 foot 4 inch center, came to the basketball Wildcats from Wausau, Wisconsin. After having a successful freshman season in which Taylor led the team in rebounds and blocks, she was riddled with injuries and symptoms that at times have gone undiagnosed. She has worked diligently for four-years to be the best student-athlete she could be with just a few hundred daily calories to support her as a regular contributor on her basketball team and her endless preparation for becoming a physician's assistant."
"Senior Adam Rockwood, a 5 foot ten inch forward from Coquitlam, British Columbia came to NMU with a lifelong rare genetic disorder that affects his body's ability to process long-chain fatty acids. In his two seasons with the NMU hockey team, Adam amassed 15 goals and 68 assists in 81 games, just over a point a game, while at times having to manage his diet and play through the pain radiating throughout in his body."
| FAN OF THE YEAR
Written by Senior Chloe Tompkins (Dousman, Wis.) from the Women's Basketball team.
Wildcat Willy may be NMU's mascot, but who really represents the university? Ask any athlete, local or NMU sports fanatic, and you're going to get a description of two goofy knuckleheads wearing green and gold wigs. Their names are Todd "Stix" Honch and Lindsay Griffith. You may also know them as NMU's super fans from their nearly perfect attendance record at all sporting events. Whether they're hollering at the football games or chest bumping for every point scored at the volleyball games, no matter who you are or what sport you play, everybody knows this dynamic fan duo.
I speak confidentially on behalf of Wildcat student-athletes past and present when I say that these two have impacted so many lives in so many positive ways. They say it all goes back to 1987, when they were both attending an NMU basketball game at the Hedgcock Field House. Stix was jamming in the pep band when Lindsay walked up and introduced himself. Together they spent the next 31 seasons causing double trouble as they cheered on the green and gold. Stix moved from Flint, Michigan in 1987, and in 1988 he enrolled at NMU, where he was the star drummer for over a decade. That's how he got the nickname Stix, because he was a rock star on the drums. Lindsay was also born downstate in Lansing, Michigan. A year after his birth, his parents, Thomas and Gail Griffith, were offered jobs teaching chemistry at NMU. When his family originally made the move, they planned on living in Marquette for only two to three years but, like most, fell in love with the area and ended up staying through retirement in 1994. Lindsay has now been an active resident of Marquette for over 50 years.
So what kept them coming back year after year to every game? They just love rooting for all of the teams, no matter who is playing they were there because we love it. It isn't just the loud crazy environment that draws them to every game. It is also the friendships they develop that make it so special. They've enjoyed their encounters with the athletes and it has meant a lot to them when the athletes tell them what amazing fans they've been.
Whether they are traveling eight hours downstate to see the hockey team play in Detroit or waking up early on a Saturday to cheer on the women's basketball team, they make being an NMU athlete fun. I can personally attest to this. Coming in as a redshirt freshman, no one knew who I was at games, but to Stix and Lindsay it didn't matter. They would walk up and give me a fist bump after big wins or encouraging words after tough losses. As our friendship developed over the past five years, we have managed to create a sweet handshake and a multitude of inside jokes.
Losing Stix this year shook us all and we are left remembering him fondly. Stix and Lindsay are a NMU's greatest fans, biggest troublemakers and two of my best friends. They represent everything this university stands for: no matter who you are or where you come from, you can always find your home here at Northern Michigan.
| BREAKTHROUGH ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
As a freshman, Nordic skier Abigail Jarzin (Green Bay, Wis.) started the year as the 141st ranked female and 61st ranked female junior on the National Skiing Ranking List and is now the top ranked junior skier in the U.S. At the NCAA Championships, she became the only true freshmen woman to earn an All-American finish.
| BEST MOMENT
Freshman Anthony Ladd (Columbus, Ohio) from the NMU Football team helped seal the team's first conference road victory with a 97-yard interception return for a touchdown at Wayne State University. After the Wildcats scored with 1:28 left to take a 27-24 lead, WSU drove down to the NMU 10-yard line. However, Ladd stepped in front of a pass with 10 seconds left to pick it off and ran 97 yards untouched to give NMU a 34-24 victory.
| BEST PLAY
Hockey's senior goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) earned the Best Play award for scoring a goal against Michigan Tech in a 5-3 victory in the Berry Events Center. With 1:07 left in the game, Tolvanen fired the puck down the ice and into the empty Husky net for the first goaltender goal in NMU history. It was just the 11th goal by a goaltending in NCAA history and was the fourth time a goaltender scored off their own shot.
| BIGGEST UPSET
Women's Basketball had the biggest upset of the year after defeating four-time GLIAC Champion and 2016 National Champions, Ashland University in the first round of the Midwest Regional in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles were ranked #4 in the country at the time and jumped out to a 15-9 lead after the first quarter, the Wildcats outscored Ashland 15-4 in the second quarter which proved the difference as NMU held Ashland 30 points below their season average and win 64-57.
| TEAM COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
The Men's Basketball team won the award for Team Community Engagement for helping with the community baby shower sponsored by the Marquette Health Department by assisting in setting up and helping move gifts for Marquette community moms' to be.
| MOST INFLUENTIAL/SUPPORTIVE FACULTY MEMBER
This year's winner is Doctor Randy Appleton, a professor in the mathematics and computer science department who was nominated by basketball student-athlete Myles Howard for his genuine care and support of his student's while passionately educating them about the subject matter. Doctor Appleton, and his wife Lori, are seen regularly throughout the year cheering on the green and gold.
| FEMALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Junior swimmer Rachel Helm (Newcastle, England) was named the winner for Female Performance of the Year after breaking three GLIAC records to win four GLIAC Championships and earning GLIAC Swimmer of the Year for the second-straight season. Helm won the 200-yard Individual Medley for the third time by breaking her own conference record with a time of 2:00.79, the 100-yard Butterfly in 55.06, the 100-yard Backstroke, 54.35. She also broke a league record with a new standard of 1:56.21 in the 200-yard Backstroke. She also helped the 400-yard Freestyle Relay team post a new record of 3:24.05.
| MALE PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
Senior hockey goaltender Atte Tolvanen (Vihti, Finland) was the winner for Male Performance of the Year for his record-breaking 58 saves against Michigan Tech on March 1, in which he led the Wildcats to a 5-3 win over the Huskies at Michigan Tech. He broke a record that stood since December 1984.
| BEST RECORD-BREAKING PERFORMANCE
Senior Jake Mayon (Plainfield, Ill.) from the NMU Football team broke a 31-year record by rushing for 4,220 career rushing yards, breaking the record with a 30-yard run against Michigan Tech. The senior also set a new single-season rushing record with 1,505 yards.
| TEAM AWARDS
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Naba Echols|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Myles Howard|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Troy Summers|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Darby Youngstrom|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Amber Huebner|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Sydney Dillinger|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Sophie McDonald|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Elise Longley|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Shayla Huebner|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Jake Mayon|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Brady Hanson|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Gabe Baumann & Vince Propson|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Logan Haight|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Kyle Pouliot|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Austin Elsner|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Karissa Guthrie|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Baylee Dunmire|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Haley Hewer|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Troy Loggins|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Ryan Black|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Atte Tolvanen|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Jessie Close & Emily Renfrew|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Katie Zarembski|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Megan Palacio|
MEN'S NORDIC SKIING
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Zak Ketterson|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Mathias Aas-Rolid|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Xavier Mansfield|
WOMEN'S NORDIC SKIING
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Abigail Jarzin|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Julie Ensrud|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Sarah Bezdicek|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Kevin Hoof & Sam Popp|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Arni Eiriksson|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Eric Suess|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Sophia Sachs & Caroline Halonen|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Emma Vermette|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Anna Worman|
MEN'S SWIM & DIVE
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Renars Bundzis|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Benjamin Lindberg|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Nathan Rotundo|
WOMEN'S SWIM & DIVE
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Rachel Helm|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Briana Arnold|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Jamie Kimble|
TRACK & FIELD
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Michelle Juergen|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Izabelle Peterson|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Shayla Huebner|
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Sarah Kuehn|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Maggie Liebeck|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Kaila Mathews|
OLYMPIC TRAINING SITE MEN'S WEIGHTLIFTING
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Bret Pfeiffer|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Bradley Kozbiel|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Austin Gean|
OLYMPIC TRAINING SITE WOMEN'S WEIGHTLIFTING
|MOST VALUABLE PLAYER||Destiny Young|
|MOST IMPROVED PLAYER||Hannah Hopkins|
|SCHOLAR ATHLETE||Jarynn Stewart|
| ELITE 20
The Elite 20 status is given to the student-athlete from each team who has the highest grade point average. In a case of a tie, the student-athlete with the most credits is then awarded the honor.
|Men's Basketball||Troy Summers|
|Women's Basketball||Darby Youngstrom|
|Cross Country||Katrina Salmen|
|Men's Golf||Austin Elsner|
|Women's Golf||Karissa Guthrie|
|Men's Nordic Skiing||Xavier Mansfield|
|Women's Nordic Skiing||Sarah Bezdicek|
|Men's Soccer||Eric Suess|
|Women's Soccer||Anna Worman|
|Men's Swim & Dive||Nathan Rotundo|
|Women's Swim & Dive||Mary Grossman|
|Indoor Track & Field||Haley Teske|
|Outdoor Track & Field||Haley Teske|
|OTS Men's Weightlifting||Austin Gean|
|OTS Women's Weightlifting||Jarynn Stewart|