Shining The Spotlight On Dual-Sport Nittany Lions
Excellence in just one sport is no small task, but for a handful of Penn State student-athletes, they’ve managed to take their talents to multiple playing fields. So, who are the Bo Jacksons or Deion Sanderses among us here at Penn State?
Hailing from Mohnton, PA, sophomore Jan Johnson has certainly made the most out of his athletic career here at Penn State. A linebacker on the football field, Johnson appeared in six games this past season for the Nittany Lions, and recorded a career-high four tackles against Rutgers. Coach Franklin does not have a monopoly on Jan’s talents, however. As a freshman, the two-time PIAA Class AAA wrestling champion competed as a heavyweight in eight duals for Coach Sanderson’s team, stepping in for an injured Nick Nevills.
In addition to his endeavors on the field and the mat, Johnson is also standout in the classroom, as the psychology major was named to the Academic All-Big Ten team.
Like Deion “Primetime” Sanders himself, Hippenhammer occupies a skill position on the gridiron and patrols the outfield during baseball season. Listed as a wide receiver on the football roster, Hippenhammer is recorded as both an infielder and outfielder for the Nittany Lions baseball team.
An Indiana native, he starred for R. Nelson Snider high school in both football and baseball, and was ranked by 247sports as the 5th best prospect out of the Hoosier state. You can listen to Coach Cooper discuss Mac’s assimilation into collegiate baseball for the start of his freshman season here, beginning at the 5:20 mark.
Much like Jan Johnson, senior Matt McCutcheon is a PIAA wrestling champion that does not limit his athletic abilities to one sport. Primarily a wrestler, McCutcheon is in the midst of his final season as a member of Coach Sanderson’s squad. A kinesiology major, the heavyweight has thrice qualified for the NCAA’s, and looks to help Penn State defeat Buffalo in what will be his final dual at Rec Hall.
Unlike Johnson, however, McCutcheon will be joining the Diamond Lions rather than the football team. What is perhaps most impressive about McCutcheon’s decision to pursue baseball is the timing of the respective baseball and wrestling seasons. Unlike the previous student-athletes listed in this article, McCutcheon’s two sports occupy back-to-back seasons, a situation which undoubtedly takes a toll on the body and the mind. On the diamond, he projects to be a power-hitting catcher, and baseball coach Rob Cooper is certainly hoping that McCutcheon can regain the form that saw him hit .485 with 4 home runs and 25 runs batted in as a high school senior.
Marissa Sheva is no stranger to diligence and achievement. A midfielder for the women’s soccer team, Sheva also competes as a distance/cross country runner in the spring and winter seasons. In addition to this distinction, Sheva is an accomplished student, having been honored as a 2016 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.
On the track, she finished 14th in 1,500 meters event at the 2017 Big Ten outdoor championships, and followed up that performance with a 10th place showing in the mile at the indoor championships. As for the soccer pitch, Sheva has earned honors such as Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and TopDrawerSoccer Team of the Week.