BEST COLLEGE ATHLETE - 2006
Suffice it to say that it was an off-year for athletics at the U. None of the major teams performed to expectations, and for criminy: Do we have to pretend to be interested in yet another meaningless bowl game for the football team? That said, there was at least one champion walking around campus this year, and a very big champion at that. Cole Konrad, the Gophers wrestler, quietly won his second Big Ten heavyweight title in as many years in early March, and the team itself won its fourth Big Ten conference championship in five years. True, sometimes good things come in small packages, but Konrad is apparently a good thing that comes in a massive package; he stands 6-foot-4-inches and tips the scales at 285 pounds. This year he racked up a mighty record of 41-0. In fact, Konrad and the rest of the No. 1-ranked Gopher grapplers pretty much ran roughshod over a list of wrestling powerhouses, and received few props in doing so. By all accounts, Konrad, a junior, was the anchor of yet another formidable U squad, joining a long list of golden heavyweights that includes Verne Gagne and Brock Lesner. By the end of March, with the team out of contention for the NCAAA title, Konrad nevertheless was crowned national champion in the heavyweight class. With one more year left, Konrad may go down as the best of them all.