The good people over at ESPN have released the online ballots for the annual ESPY Awards — the only true all-encompassing awards show in sports. As always, I voted. As always, I took it seriously — even if the show itself doesn't always do the same.
I'm enough of a realist to understand that at the core, the ESPYS are nothing more than a popularity contest — a "teen choice" award show for sports fans. I understand that football and basketball dominate pop culture in the United States, while everything else — including even baseball — falls somewhere on the spectrum of being a niche sport. Because of that, I understand the temptation of the casual sports fan to gravitate toward the football and basketball players when casting votes.
Be that as it may, I suppose I am naive enough to expect people to put some actual thought into their otherwise meaningless vote. I'd like to see a little integrity on the part of the voters.
In my mind, it's an easy choice. Regardless of the fact that I am essentially a football writer, I'm still a wrestler at heart — from the time I was seven years old, through high school and briefly in college. I understand the sport. I know of the unique struggles and pain that those who compete in the sport deal with — especially at the elite level.
Logan Stieber is about as elite as a wrestler gets.
Many people reading this haven't seen a wrestling match or don't watch them regularly, so I'll try to keep this rather simple. Stieber just won his fourth Division 1 NCAA Championship. That's a feat that has only been accomplished by three others since the NCAA began allowing freshmen to compete in the late 1960s.
Stieber finished his senior campaign undefeated, capping off an overall record of 119-3 during his college career. I'll save you the math — that's a .975 winning percentage.
In addition to winning the four individual NCAA titles, Stieber did something that none of the other nominees in his ESPY category did during the 2014-15 year, leading his team to an NCAA team title. The four other athletes in his category all made it to the championship final of their respective sports, but they all lost.
People often forget about wrestling being a team sport at the high school and college levels, but it very much is. Each weight class is like a different position on a team. Each member of the team must do his job in order for the team to have success. When you look at it that way, Stieber not only did his job, but also has been the best player at his position during all four years of his college career.
That's something that Marcus Mariota, Frank Kaminsky, Jack Eichel and Dansby Swanson — his fellow nominees — were never able to say during their highly decorated careers.
Two years ago, I was extremely vocal when the voting public gave the same award to Johnny Manziel over Kyle Dake. You all know who Manziel is and what he accomplished. All Dake did was become the first NCAA wrestler to win four national titles in four different weight classes — something that is not likely to happen again. That wasn't good enough for the casual sports fan and ESPY voter to put him ahead of Manziel.
They got it wrong.
Let's make sure we get this one right. Let's make sure we the voters do our best not to turn this annual spectacle into a complete joke once again simply by voting for "the popular kid" in school. Let's make sure Logan Stieber adds one more trophy to his already impressive trophy case — a trophy he rightfully deserves.
(Logan Stieber photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)