Konrad notches one more award during illustrious career

The heavyweight edged out Ohio State’s Troy Smith, among others.

by Nick Gerhardt

Minnesota wrestler Cole Konrad is accustomed to taking down big men on the wrestling mat, but on Wednesday he took down some big names in multiple sports as he became the 2007 Big Ten-Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year.

Konrad, a heavyweight who competed as a senior last season, snagged the award from among the likes of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Troy Smith from Ohio State and Wisconsin’s Alando Tucker, the Big Ten basketball player of the year.

“It’s definitely an honor and a pretty cool award,” Konrad said.

As for the competition he faced, though some were easily identifiable, he didn’t immediately recognize some of the nominees.

“The only one I knew was Troy Smith,” he said.

A panel of conference media members selected Konrad after each school nominated an athlete, assistant director of communications for the Big Ten Jeff Smith said.

Konrad’s teammates showed equally proud feelings for the 2007 NCAA champion.

“It’s an awesome honor for him especially because wrestlers often get overlooked,” Gophers junior C.P. Schlatter said.

Konrad became only the second Minnesota wrestler to receive the award and the fifth wrestler in the award’s history, which began in 1982.

Damion Hahn last won the award for Minnesota in 2004. Additional past Gophers winners include men’s hockey player Jordan Leopold in 2002 and men’s gymnast John Roethlisberger in 1993.

Konrad said the award speaks volumes about the state of the wrestling program.

“It says a lot for the University and the program to have two wrestlers win the award,” Konrad said. “They back us, and that’s what it takes.”

Schlatter said the award gives credit to the program and shows people that the wrestling team is working hard to maintain the level of excellence associated with the program.

The honor caps off an impressive career for Konrad.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to go out,” he said.

Minnesota won the 2007 national title behind the performance of Konrad in the final match. The Gophers needed a victory from Konrad to bring home the title, and he delivered a win by pinning his opponent in less than two minutes.

“He held the team together,” Schlatter said. “He was al- ways there when we needed him.”

Minnesota needed Konrad the most when team victories were on the line. Sixteen times throughout his career the Gophers relied on him winning a match to bring home the victory.

He won every time.

Konrad earned his second national title in 2007 and ended his career on a school record 76-match undefeated streak.

His overall record stands at 155-13, which places fourth best in school history.

Konrad keeps busy by traveling to coach at camps and clinics around the country all summer long, he said. He said he plans to attend graduate school in the fall and become part of the coaching staff.