Minnesota’s Steveson, Wisconsin’s Rettke Named Big Ten Athletes of the Year
Steveson is the fifth Golden Gopher student-athlete to earn Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year honors, but the first in 15 years (wrestler Cole Konrad in 2007). Along with Konrad, other previous Minnesota winners have been wrestling’s Damion Hahn (2004), ice hockey’s Jordan Leopold (2002) and gymnastics’ John Roethlisberger (1993).
Steveson is also the 13th wrestling student-athlete chosen as Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year and the first since Penn State’s Bo Nickal in 2019.
Steveson earned the Big Ten Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year award following yet another dominant collegiate season as Minnesota’s heavyweight. In 2021-22, he posted his third straight undefeated season, capped off with his second NCAA title and his third Big Ten title. The Apple Valley, Minn., native wrapped up last season with an 18-0 record, with 15 of those victories coming by way of bonus points.
Steveson also won his second straight Dan Hodge Trophy, which is given to the most dominant wrestler in collegiate wrestling. He closed out his career on a 52-match win streak, the fourth-longest in program history.
Rettke earns the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year award for the second time, having previously been selected in 2020. She also makes history as the first Big Ten student-athlete, male or female, ever chosen Big Ten Athlete of the Year in non-consecutive seasons. Rettke is the third two-time recipient of the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Award and first since Indiana swimmer Lilly King (2017, 2018).
This marks the fifth time a volleyball student-athlete has captured the Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year award. Along with Rettke’s dual honors, other volleyball recipients were Penn State’s Megan Hodge (2010), Penn State’s Lauren Cacciamani (2000) and Ohio State’s Laura Davis (1995).
In addition, Rettke’s selection represents the eighth time a Badger has received Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year honors. Aside from Rettke’s two awards, the other Wisconsin honorees have all been cross country/track & field runners: Kathy Butler (co-winner in 1997), Suzy Favor (1988, 1989, 1990), Stephanie Herbst (1986) and Cathy Branta (1985).
A 6-foot-8 middle blocker, Rettke wrapped up her career by leading the Badgers to the first NCAA national championship in program history and a third straight Big Ten championship in 2021. She was named the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) National Player of the Year, the first UW player to receive the award, and became the first five-time first-team All-American in AVCA history. She completed her career as a five-time, first-team All-Big Ten selection with a school-record 11 Big Ten Player of the Week awards.
As a senior, the Riverside, Illinois, native ranked sixth nationally with a .430 hitting percentage. She led the Badgers with 3.41 kills per set and 1.43 blocks per set, which ranked fifth nationally. For her career, Rettke set UW records for hitting percentage (.422), blocks (751) and points (2,333.0).
Steveson and Rettke were among a high-powered field of 28 nominees (one male and one female per Big Ten school) that included eight national champions, 28 All-Americans, 18 Big Ten champions, 15 conference Players of the Year and eight standouts who collected at least one national player of the year accolade.
The Big Ten Conference has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 and first honored a Female Athlete of the Year in 1983. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year are selected by a panel of conference media members from nominations submitted by each institution.
The complete list of 2021-22 Athlete of the Year nominations, as well as the list of all-time winners for each award, can be found below.
2021-22 BIG TEN ATHLETE OF THE YEAR NOMINEES
1982 – Jim Spivey, Indiana, cross country/track & field
1983 – Ed Banach, Iowa, wrestling
1984 – Sunder Nix, Indiana, track & field
1985 – Barry Davis, Iowa, wrestling
1986 – Chuck Long, Iowa, football
1987 – Steve Alford, Indiana, basketball
1988 – Jim Abbott, Michigan, baseball
1989 – Glen Rice, Michigan, basketball
1990 – Anthony Thompson, Indiana, football
1991 – Mike Barrowman, Michigan, swimming
1992 – Desmond Howard, Michigan, football
1993 – John Roethlisberger, Minnesota, gymnastics
1994 – Glenn Robinson, Purdue, basketball
1995 – Tom Dolan, Michigan, swimming
1996 – Eddie George, Ohio State, football
1997 – Blaine Wilson, Ohio State, gymnastics
1998 – Charles Woodson, Michigan, football
1999 – Luke Donald, Northwestern, golf
2000 – Ron Dayne, Wisconsin, football
2001 – Ryan Miller, Michigan State, ice hockey
2002 – Jordan Leopold, Minnesota, ice hockey
2003 – Amer Delic, Illinois, tennis/Matt Lackey, Illinois, wrestling
2004 – Damion Hahn, Minnesota, wrestling
2005 – Luis Vargas, Penn State, gymnastics
2006 – Peter Vanderkaay, Michigan, swimming
2007 – Cole Konrad, Minnesota, wrestling
2008 – Brent Metcalf, Iowa, wrestling
2009 – Jake Herbert, Northwestern, wrestling
2010 – Evan Turner, Ohio State, basketball
2011 – David Boudia, Purdue, diving
2012 – Draymond Green, Michigan State, basketball
2013 – Derek Drouin, Indiana, track & field
2014 – David Taylor, Penn State, wrestling
2015 – Logan Stieber, Ohio State, wrestling
2016 – Denzel Valentine, Michigan State, basketball
2017 – Kyle Snyder, Ohio State, wrestling
2018 – Kyle Snyder, Ohio State, wrestling
2019 – Bo Nickal, Penn State, wrestling
2020 – Chase Young, Ohio State, football
2021 – Luka Garza, Iowa, basketball
2022 – Gable Steveson, Minnesota, wrestling
BIG TEN FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNERS
1983 – Judi Brown, Michigan State, track & field
1984 – Lisa Ishikawa, Northwestern, softball
1985 – Cathy Branta, Wisconsin, cross country/track & field
1986 – Stephanie Herbst, Wisconsin, cross country/track & field
1987 – Jennifer Averill, Northwestern, field hockey/lacrosse
1988 – Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, cross country/track & field
1989 – Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, cross country/track & field
1990 – Suzy Favor, Wisconsin, cross country/track & field
1991 – Julie Farrell-Ovenhouse, Michigan State, diving/Joy Holmes, Purdue, basketball
1992 – MaChelle Joseph, Purdue, basketball
1993 – Lara Hooiveld, Michigan, swimming
1994 – Kristy Gleason, Iowa, field hockey
1995 – Laura Davis, Ohio State, volleyball
1996 – Olga Kalinovskaya, Penn State, fencing
1997 – Kathy Butler, Wisconsin, track & field/Gretchen Hegener, Minnesota, swimming
1998 – Sara Griffin, Michigan, softball
1999 – Stephanie White-McCarty, Purdue, basketball
2000 – Lauren Cacciamani, Penn State, volleyball
2001 – Katie Douglas, Purdue, basketball
2002 – Christie Welsh, Penn State, soccer
2003 – Perdita Felicien, Illinois, track & field
2004 – Kelly Mazzante, Penn State, basketball
2005 – Jennie Ritter, Michigan, softball
2006 – Tiffany Weimer, Penn State, soccer
2007 – Jessica Davenport, Ohio State, basketball
2008 – Hannah Nielsen, Northwestern, lacrosse
2009 – Maria Hernandez, Purdue, golf
2010 – Megan Hodge, Penn State, volleyball
2011 – Shannon Smith, Northwestern, lacrosse
2012 – Christina Manning, Ohio State, track & field
2013 – Amanda Kessel, Minnesota, ice hockey
2014 – Dani Bunch, Purdue, track & field
2015 – Taylor Cummings, Maryland, lacrosse
2016 – Rachel Banham, Minnesota, basketball
2017 – Lilly King, Indiana, swimming
2018 – Lilly King, Indiana, swimming
2019 – Megan Gustafson, Iowa, basketball
2020 – Dana Rettke, Wisconsin, volleyball
2021 – Sarah Bacon, Minnesota, diving
2022 – Dana Rettke, Wisconsin, volleyball
Big Ten Conference (bigten.org) is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching, and public service. Founded in 1896, Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness, and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to more than 9,800 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013.