As we turn the page on this academic year filled with triumphs and perils in the realm of college sports, a time of reflection is due to review the University of Wisconsin’s greatest moments, highlights and celebrations of the year.
The difficulty to narrow down the top moments of the year is a testament to the incredible breadth of Wisconsin athletics. But let’s dive in to the top-five greatest sports moments of the 2021-22 Wisconsin school year.
5. Men’s cross country Big Ten Championship
In what now seems like an annual tradition, UW’s men’s cross-country team won the Big Ten Championship for the fourth consecutive year.
Breaking a course record, sophomore Bob Liking led the Badgers, finishing first in the race.
Alongside Liking was seventh-year senior Olin Hacker, who finished second, and other runners Evan Bishop, Shuaib Aljabaly, Jackson Sharp, Rowen Ellenberg and Seth Hirsch. In the NCAA championships, the Badgers finished in 11th place, and Olin Hacker earned an All-American honor.
Coach Mike Byrne earned the honors of Big Ten Coach of the Year, as he has guided Wisconsin to a Big Ten title in 11 of his 14 years at the school.
The men’s cross-country team was a key contributor to UW’s success in the National Association of College Director’s fall rankings, as Wisconsin ranked fourth in the nation among all Division I schools.
Though the cross-country program may not receive much fame and glamor, their consistent performances at the top level demonstrate their commitment to excellence. The team warrants validation and praise for its continual expedition to provide UW with great moments.
4. Three UW wrestlers on the podium at NCAA Tournament
In order to earn All-American honors in wrestling, one must finish in the top eight performers in their individual weight class. The Badgers had three wrestlers earn that honor, with Austin Gomez, Dean Hamiti and Eric Barnett finishing fourth, fifth and seventh, respectively.
In addition to the trio of All-Americans, six other UW wrestlers competed at the NCAA tournament, as the Badgers closed the season with an impressive 14th ranking in the team standings.
A promising future is in store for the wrestling program as all three All-Americans are returning next year.
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3. “Jump Around” returns
Perhaps the greatest sports casualty of the pandemic shutdown was the loss of UW’s most illustrious tradition: Jump Around. So, when fans donned in cardinal and white returned to Camp Randall Stadium last fall, they were ready to jump like they never had before.
This moment cannot be quantified by any accolades, honors, awards or numbers (besides a high rating on the Richter scale), but it can be magnified for its importance in the sign of a return to normal. This moment was a celebration — a celebration of 80,000 Badger diehards responding to a song that simply tells them to jump for joy.
The moment was electric. In fact, the two-minute clip was the most watched video on Fox’s College Football account, registering over 9.5 million views.
2. Chucky Hepburn bank shot to defeat Purdue, winning the Big Ten Title
With five seconds remaining, Chucky Hepburn drove down the left side of the floor in a tied game and banked an improbable step-back shot. And the long shot was truly a longshot.
In the postgame celebration, Johnny Davis said, “Hey, that (shot) was some b***s***, but it went in.”
After a failed Purdue shot at the buzzer, Badger fans stormed the court in incredible fashion as Wisconsin won a share of the regular season title.
The Hepburn shot encapsulates everything good about the UW basketball program – its success, the passionate fans and sometimes, a bit of luck.
Men’s Basketball: Badgers secure share of Big Ten title in win over PurdueThe No. 10 University of Wisconsin Badgers (24-5, 15-4 Big Ten) defeated the No. 8 Purdue University Boilermakers (24-6, 13-6 Read…
1. Women’s volleyball wins the National Championship
In an all-time thriller of a match against Nebraska, Badger fans experienced feelings of excitement, doubt, heartbreak and finally, celebration.
After years of final fours and three national championship losses, the Wisconsin volleyball team can finally call themselves champions.
The national championship match started off with Nebraska taking the first set, followed by the Badgers taking the next two sets. After Nebraska won the fourth set, heartbreak was looming. The Wisconsin curse felt inevitable.
But in the fifth set, Wisconsin pulled away, winning the final set 15-12, punctuated by the final kill by Dana Rettke.
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Newcomer of the year: Braelon Allen
After injuries from Chez Mellusi and Isaac Guerendo plus Jalen Berger’s dismissal, Wisconsin was quite skeptical about where their offense would come from.
Enter Braelon Allen. The Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin native made his name known against Illinois where he rushed for 131 yards on 18 carries.
In the next seven match-ups, when Badger fans wouldn’t stop saying, “He’s only 17,” Braelon Allen rushed for over 100 yards per game.
Braelon Allen’s breaking-out party may have been in 2021, but his name will ring across the national airwaves in 2022 as he makes a possible Heisman Trophy run in his sophomore season.
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Best athlete: Dana Rettke
Awarded the 2021 American Volleyball Coaches Association National Player of the Year, Rettke’s incredible leadership resulted in a Wisconsin National Championship.
Perhaps the greatest women’s volleyball player in Wisconsin history, Rettke holds career records for hitting percentage (.423), total blocks (738) and points (2,314).
After becoming a 2021 AVCA All-American, she is the first player to become a five-time All American.
Her decorative career and Badger stardom demonstrate her incredible athletic abilities, and for that, she is awarded the best athlete of the 2021-2022 school year.
Best team: Women’s Volleyball
Not to sound like a broken record here, but the Wisconsin women’s volleyball team was by far and away the most decorated and accomplished Wisconsin sports team this year.
In addition to winning the national championship, the Badger ladies also won the Big Ten Regular Season Title and finished an impressive 31-3.
Led by head coach Kelly Sheffield, the Badgers won their first national championship in program history. The excitement and interest in this team was engulfed all over campus, and Badger fans were clearly rewarded with a National Championship.