On Tuesday night, the Rutgers athletic department held their annual RAwards Banquet. It’s an annual celebration of every team and program within Rutgers. Many awards and honors are given out, as well as serving as an appreciation of all of the hard work every student athlete put forth this past year.
From Rutgers press release, here is what athletic director Pat Hobbs had to say about the celebratory occassion:
“We are incredibly proud of the young men and women who represent our University and the State of New Jersey as Scarlet Knights,” said Director of Athletics Pat Hobbs. “Their contributions academically, competitively and socially are the driving force behind all that we aspire to achieve as a department. This is what we celebrate tonight. We wish our seniors all the best as they embark on the next phase of theirs lives. And of course, they remain Scarlet Knights forever!”
Here is a breakdown and recap of all the awards handed out, as well as some notable bio’s as well. First off, here is a tremendous highlight video from the year that was for Rutgers athletics. It’s a must watch!
Let’s review the awards.
Big Ten Medal of Honor
This award is given annually to one male and one female student athlete from the graduating class of each member school within the Big Ten Conference that “have demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career.” Rutgers had several strong candidates to choose for both the men’s and women’s selection. The winners were...
Michael Rexrode - Men’s Lacrosse
Rexrode was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year earlier in the day and was named to the All-Big Ten First Team for the second consecutive season as well. Here is the description of his career from the Rutgers press release:
Rexrode has been the backbone of the men’s lacrosse team’s defense throughout his career and earned First Team All-Big Ten honors the past two seasons. Rexrode garnered Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors this year after starting all 14 games, with 23 ground balls and nine caused turnovers. A two-time team captain, he was a Senior CLASS Award Finalist, member of the Tewaaraton Award Watch List, and 2nd round draft pick of the MLL’s Florida Launch. An All-American in 2017, he has started in every career game played. The Civil Engineering major maintains a 3.8 GPA.
Casey Murphy - Women’s Soccer
Casey Murphy was the best goalkeeper in women’s college soccer this past season and is already playing professionally overseas. She had a tremendous career on the banks and should be starring for the United States Women’s National Soccer Team in the near future. Here is the description of her career from the press release:
Murphy earned numerous accolades throughout her standout career. The Bridgewater native’s resume boasts her status as a two-time All-American, two-time Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, two-time All-Big Ten First Team selection, and two-time All-Region First Team honoree. In the classroom, Murphy was tabbed a Scholar All-American and Academic All-Big Ten her senior season. In 2017, Murphy was named a MAC Hermann Trophy Semifinalist after leading the Big Ten and ranking second in the nation in GAA (0.267), save percentage (.924) and total shutouts (16). Overall, she stopped 73 of 79 opponent shots on goal, allowing just six goals in 21 starts. Murphy became Rutgers all-time career shutouts leader in 2017 with 45 total clean sheets in just three years of action. She redshirted the 2016 season to compete for the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team at the U-20 FIFA World Cup. The goalkeeper’s career total is a mark that ranks second in Big Ten history and fourth in the NCAA among active career leaders. Murphy was selected 13th overall by Sky Blue FC in the 2018 NWSL College Draft. She is signed to a professional contract with Montpellier Hérault Sport Club of France.
Another pair of major awards handed out was the annual Bauer Athlete of the Year for both a male and female student athlete. Rutgers again had several worthy candidates to choose from, but ultimately rightfully chose two that made history this past season.
Bauer Male Athlete of the Year - Nick Suriano, Wrestling
In his first year as a Scarlet Knight, Suriano made a huge impact on the wrestling program in becoming the first ever Rutgers wrestler to advance to the national championship in his weight class. The description of his historic campaign from the press release:
Suriano finished the season 25-1, highlighted by the program’s first-ever appearance in a national final. The 2018 All-American closed out the campaign with 17 wins by bonus points, which included eight tech falls, six major decisions and three pins. The Paramus native picked up wins over eight ranked foes in 2017-18, including a 2-0 decision over then-No. 1 Darian Cruz in the 2018 NCAA Championships semifinal bout. Suriano, who also became the program’s first-ever regular-season No. 1 ranked wrestler in his respective weight class, placed at the Big Ten Championships in 2018 and secured RU’s first individual title at the 2017 Midlands Championships.
Bauer Female Athlete of the Year - Addison Walkowiak, Swimming & Diving
Addison Walkowiak also made Rutgers history, becoming the first diver to earn All-Big Ten and All-American honors. She leaves the banks as the most accomplished diver in Rutgers history. Here is a synopsis of her historic season and career:
Walkowiak is the most decorated diver in program history. This past season, she became the program’s first Big Ten All-Conference performer with a silver medal in 1-meter diving, and later became the program’s first 1-Meter Diving All-America honoree with an Honorable Mention 11th place finish at NCAA Championships. She has earned nine weekly awards from the Big Ten over her career, including six Diver of the Week accolades. An NCAA Championships qualifier in all four of her seasons, she also owns three titles in the NCAA Zone A Championships and graduates as the school record holder on both the 1- and 3-meter diving events, resetting both records in 2018. Out of the pool, Walkowiak is a two-time CSCAA Scholar All-American, three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and a member of the Rutgers Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Comeback Player of the Year - Tyler Scaife, Women’s Basketball
This was likely the easiest decision that the athletic department had to make and was one of the best stories in all of college sports this past year.
It really is remarkable the season that Scaife had just a year removed from having open heart surgery. She became the second all-time leading scorer in program history and earned a First Team All-Big Ten selection. From the press release:
After missing the 2016-17 season following open heart surgery, Scaife powered back to lead Rutgers with 19.4 points-per-game, while becoming the 20th Scarlet Knight selected in a WNBA draft. During her redshirt senior campaign, Scaife became RU’s second all-time leading scorer with 2,233 career points and was the country’s eighth active leading scorer. A WBCA Regional All-American, Metropolitan Basketball Writers Player of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches and media, she led the Scarlet Knights to a nation-leading 14-game improvement and their best start in Big Ten play. The Little Rock, Ark. native landed on numerous watch lists, including the Wade Trophy, the Dawn Staley Award, and the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award. Scaife was named to the Big Ten honor roll four times this past season, twice named a Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association Player of the Week and was featured on ESPNW’s Top 10 Plays of the Week.
Team of the Year - Wrestling
The Wrestling team continues to set the bar for all Rutgers sports and had its best ever finish at the NCAA Championships back in March, finishing in 11th place. The most exciting takeaway is that with a healthy Anthony Ashnault returning next season and several promising additions, this program could produce an even more successful campaign next year.
From the press release:
Wrestling produced the best team finish in program history at the NCAA Championships this past March, as six Scarlet Knights combined for 19 victories and 42.5 team points en route to an 11th-place result. The historic showing at NCAAs also included the program’s first national finalist in Nick Suriano, as well as a sixth-place finisher in Scott DelVecchio. The program earned multiple All-Americans for the third consecutive year under head coach Scott Goodale. This past season, RU collected eight dual wins, including victories over four ranked foes, and also produced the best finish at the Midlands Championships in its history with its second-place result in December. Rutgers finished 2017-18 ranked 19th in the final coaches’ poll, while six Scarlet Knights closed out the season ranked in their respective weight classes by FloWrestling.
Game of the Year - Men’s Basketball’s victory over then #15 Seton Hall
Easy pick that I, of course, wholeheartedly agree with. Beating its blood rival in front of the most spirited RAC crowd in years was truly a special day for the program and the entire university. Here was our coverage from that great victory:
Rest of the Awards
Senior Athletes of the Year: Jules Heningburg (men’s lacrosse) & Tyler Scaife (women’s basketball)
Junior Athletes of the Year: Kyle Pless (men’s lacrosse) & Francesca Stoppa (swimming & diving)
Sophomore Athletes of the Year: Nick Suriano (wrestling) & Samantha Budd (women’s lacrosse)
Freshman Athletes of the Year: Geo Baker (men’s basketball) & Amirah Ali (women’s soccer)
High Academic Achiever: Emily Mills, women’s golf
True Grit Award: Nick Gravina, wrestling
Spirit Performer of the Year: Michael White
Varsity R Award: Joe Donato (alumni award)
Top Team GPA & Leadership Academy Team Cup Award: Women’s Golf
Male Game Performance of the Year: Rudy Winkler, men’s track & field
Female Game Performance of the Year: Paige Paratore, women’s lacrosse
RLA Knights In Action Award: Nick Gravina (wrestling) & Katie Beilin (field hockey)
Congratulations to all of the award winners and for a detailed recap from the Rutgers athletic department, click here.