UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State seniors Ally McHugh (Philadelphia/Little Flower Catholic) and Jason Nolf (Yatesboro/Kittanning High School) have been selected as Penn State's recipients for the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor for 2018-19.
The Big Ten, the nation's oldest collegiate conference, commemorates the 105th anniversary of a very unique tradition — the Big Ten Medal of Honor. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student from the graduating class of each university who had "attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work."
In 1982, the award was expanded to include one female student-athlete from each member institution. Big Ten institutions feature nearly 10,000 students competing in intercollegiate athletics, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis. In more than 100 years of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, nearly 1,400 students have earned this distinction.
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 and 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 the NCAAs, 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 golds and two silvers during her career. She claimed gold in 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 also 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.
Nolf wrapped up one of the most successful collegiate wrestling careers in NCAA history in March by winning his third consecutive NCAA championship at 157 pounds. He ended a stellar 2018-19 season with a perfect 31-0 record, including 15 pins, five technical falls and six majors. His sixth and final major of the year was a resounding 10-2 major decision victory in the NCAA title bout over the nation's second-ranked wrestler. Nolf helped lead Penn State to its fourth straight NCAA team title and eighth in nine years.
From Yatesboro, Nolf won the 2019 Big Ten Championship and was named the 2019 Big Ten Championship Co-Outstanding Wrestler. He was a first team All-Big Ten selection as well and was the 2019 Big Ten Co-Wrestler of the Year (with teammate Bo Nickal). A May graduate in kinesiology, Nolf leaves Penn State with a stunning 117-3 career record, including 60 falls, 27 technical falls and 16 majors.
Nolf's collegiate career accolades and accomplishments are numerous and include: Penn State's third three-time NCAA champion, second four-time NCAA finalist, and 11th four-time All-American; finished second, first, first and first at the NCAA Championships during his career; helped lead Penn State to four straight NCAA team titles; four-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree; three-time NWCA First Team National All-Academic; and a 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-American (second team). A total of 103 of his 117 wins were for bonus points, and he leaves Penn State among the top 20 in all-time wins. Nolf's 60 falls are the most in Nittany Lion wrestling history.
Nolf also was a recipient of Penn State Athletics’ 2018-19 Ernest B. McCoy Memorial Award (with women’s soccer’s Emily Ogle), presented to one female and one male student-athlete who have combined successful athletic participation with academic excellence.
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’s 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.