College Wrestling News

Jesse Delgado named Illinois Male Athlete of the Year

By Illinois Sports Information

Champaign, Ill. – The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) announced Thursday that wrestling’s Jesse Delgado (Gilroy, California) and soccer’s Jannelle Flaws (Glenview, Illinois) are recipients of the 2013-14 Dike Eddleman Awards, which are presented annually to the top Fighting Illini male and female athlete. They were selected following a vote of Illinois head coaches and athletics administrators.

Delgado is the eighth wrestler to claim the honor and the first since Matt Lackey in 2003. Flaws becomes just the second soccer player to win the award, joining Leisha Alcia in 2004. As Fighting Illini Athletes of the Year, Delgado and Flaws become Illinois’ nominees for Big Ten Athlete of the Year honors, which will be announced later this month.

Delgado is the 2014 NCAA champion at 125 pounds, successfully defending his 2013 NCAA title to become Illinois’ first back-to-back national champion in 56 years. He posted a 3-2 decision over No. 2 seed Nahshon Garrett of Cornell in the title match. He also repeated as Big Ten champion at 125, defeating No. 1 seed Nico Megaludis of Penn State, 3-2, in double overtime.

Delgado compiled a 30-2 record during his junior campaign, his .938 win percentage ranking seventh in school history. He led the Illini with 80 dual points scored and was named Outstanding Wrestler at the Grapple at the Garden.

“This is a prestigious award for me to win as an individual, but it is way more important to the program as a whole on so many levels,” Delgado said. “Nobody sees the pain and emotion that goes into this sport: the nights that you can’t sleep – from both wrestlers and coaches; the literal tears and blood throughout the season; the partners in the room who help shape me for nothing more than me saying ‘Thanks, man,’ and the coaches saying ‘Good job.’ Everybody plays a role for the team and everybody helps each other in different ways. Wrestling is unique and it’s great that our sport is considered to have one of the university’s top athletes. No one is more important than the team as a whole, so I’d say in a way our whole team really is being recognized for this award. I love my team, coaches and the entire staff. I wouldn’t be as successful as I have been without them.”

Flaws was an offensive force throughout the season, scoring 23 goals to lead the nation along with St. John’s Rachel Daly. Her 23 goals also eclipsed the previous school record of 18 by Emily Brown in 1999. Flaws was named 2013 Big Ten Forward of the Year and was a first-team All-Big Ten and All-Great Lakes Region selection.

Flaws found the net in 15 of 23 games and had six multi-goal games, including hat tricks versus Illinois State and Northwestern. She also notched five game-winning goals, none bigger than her golden goal against Portland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, sending Illinois to its first Sweet 16 since 2008.

“To be selected as this year’s athlete of the year is such an honor,” Flaws said. “All the nominees had outstanding seasons and to be recognized for this is truly a special moment. Being the second soccer player to win and be in a category with Leisha Alcia is a great privilege but much credit to her because she helped lead me to this moment with her coaching over the past four years. Along with Leish, my teammates, coaches, athletic trainer and strength coach deserve a lot of thanks and credit, too. Coming back from two knee injuries made certain moments very difficult, but with their encouragement and support I was able to come back stronger and determined. My teammates make me better every day at practice and because of the players they are, I am able to succeed on the field. My coaches continue to teach me and by learning from them, my game has been elevated in a way I didn’t even know was possible. I’m grateful to everyone who made it possible for me to receive this award and I am proud to be an Illini.”

The University of Illinois Athlete of the Year was first awarded in 1940. The award was given annually until it was discontinued in 1973. Since 1983, the University of Illinois has recognized both a Male and Female Athlete of the Year. In 1993, the awards were named in honor of the 11-time UI letterman and former Olympian Dwight “Dike” Eddleman.

Delgado and Flaws join the list of all-time Fighting Illini greats that have been bestowed the Eddleman Award, including names like Dike Eddleman himself (football, basketball and track, 1948 & ’49), Dick Butkus (football, 1964 & ’65), Craig Virgin (track and cross country, 1977), Tony Eason (football, 1982 & ’83), Mary Eggers (volleyball, 1987-89), Kendall Gill (basketball, 1990), Renee Heiken (golf, 1991 & ’92), Ashley Berggren (basketball, 1997 & ’98), Perdita Felicien (track, 2001-03), Justin Spring (gymnastics, 2004 & ’06), Deron Williams (basketball, 2005), Angela Bizzarri (track and cross country, 2008-10), Scott Langley (golf, 2010), Andrew Riley (track, 2011 & ’12) and Colleen Ward (volleyball, 2012), to name a few.

This is the final major honor announced by the DIA this year. Nathan Scheelhaase (football) and Vanessa DiBernardo (soccer) were recipients of the Big Ten Medal of Honor and Ross Guignon (tennis) and Jennifer Beltran (volleyball) took home the Spirit Awards at the All-Sports Celebration in April. Chandler Eggleston (gymnastics) and Kandie Bloch-Jones (track and field) won Newcomer of the Year, announced Tuesday, and men’s golf and coach Mike Small, won the inaugural Team of the Year and Coach of the Year awards, announced Wednesday.

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