It's been a hell of a winter/spring for male and female athletes at the University of Iowa. Since March, Iowa athletes have won not one, not two, not three, not four, but five Player/Athlete of the Year awards in the Big Ten (not to mention even more honors on the regional and national level as well). That, my friends, is one hell of a haul.
It started at the beginning of March, when Kathleen Doyle was named Big Ten Women's Basketball Player of the Year.
Doyle became the second-straight Iowa player to win the award (after Megan Gustafson did so a year ago) and contributed to Iowa's ongoing three-year run of claiming the honor (after Gustafson won the award outright in 2019 and was co-winner in 2018). Doyle took the leap from "consistently good" to "outright great" in 2019-20 and was named the best of the Big Ten as a result.
Spencer Lee became the second Iowa athlete to earn Player/Athlete of the Year honors this spring when he was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Year less than a week later.
Lee's Wrestler of the Year award came after an utterly dominant season in which he went undefeated and posted bonus points in 17 of his 18 wins, a ridiculous 94% bonus point rate. Lee's final act was steamrolling the 125 lb competition at the Big Ten Tournament, finally winning his first-ever Big Ten Championship. Lee won even more honors at the national level, including the prestigious Dan Hodge Trophy.
A day later Luka Garza became the third Iowa athlete to win Player/Athlete of the Year honors -- and gave Iowa a clean sweep in the basketball awards as well.
This is a dream come true. Being the first Hawkeye to win this award in 52 years means the world to me. You dream of moments like this.— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) March 9, 2020
I want to thank my teammates and coaches. To be honest, if I wasnt in this program, I dont think any of this would be possible." - @LukaG_55 pic.twitter.com/mWxtUy3pm4
Like Doyle, Garza made a big leap from last season to this year, blossoming from a talented big to an overpowering presence night-in and night-out for Iowa. Garza didn't just become the best player in the Big Ten -- he became one of the best players in the entire nation, as evidenced by the consensus All-America honors he earned and the handful of National Player of the Year awards he took home.
Finally, Iowa wrapped up their Player/Athlete of the Year dominance with a pair of Indoor Track and Field honors. Wayne Lawrence became the first Iowa athlete to ever win the Male Indoor Track Athlete of the Year award.
And Laulauga Tausaga gave Iowa a matching set by claiming the Female Indoor Track Athlete of the Year award.
We've heard "first ever Hawkeye" & "Laulauga Tausaga" put together multiple times this year, but this just might be the best one yet...— Iowa Track & Field/Cross Country (@IowaXC_TF) May 12, 2020
Introducing the 2020 B1G WOMEN'S INDOOR FIELD ATHLETE OF THE YEAR @LaulaugaTausaga https://t.co/BK1SlV3z9Q pic.twitter.com/s2NubZKi6x
Lawrence and Tausaga capped off strong individual seasons with standout performances at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships, where they won a combined four gold medals and were named the Athletes of the Championships.
That's five, count 'em, five player/athlete of the year winners in black and gold this year. Greatness was everywhere you looked in Iowa City this winter/spring. All your Big Ten players of the year are belong to Iowa.
All of their years ended abruptly and before the finishing touches could be put on their superlative seasons as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that doesn't take away from the tremendous feats they were able to accomplish this year. And what's particularly exciting is that aside from Doyle they all have eligibility remaining to use next season (Lee, Garza, and Tausaga will be seniors, while Lawrence will be a junior). We could have another year of powerful performances and dazzling displays to enjoy from this wildly talented group of Hawkeye athletes.
Congratulations to Doyle, Lee, Garza, Lawrence, and Tausaga on their fantastic seasons and this well-deserved recognition for their accomplishments.