Remember All The Senior Student-Athletes Whose Careers Have Come To An End

As the current COVID-19 outbreak grips our planet and brings our everyday lives to a screeching halt, there are going to be many people affected who need our collective strength to get through this — both mentally and physically.

When you have a minute, however, I urge you to spare a thought for the senior student-athletes who were just robbed of their final moments of glory with Penn State.

It seems trivial to think of people who play sports when experts project that hundreds of thousands of Americans will die from the coronavirus, but they need our support, too. With the Big Ten’s current suspension of all sports-related activities and the NCAA’s outright cancellation of its winter and spring championship events, the sports world has come to a sudden and total pause.

It’s easy to say that sports are dumb and meaningless — especially during a global pandemic — but the reactions to nearly every major sports league and event being suspended or canceled say otherwise. Lamar Stevens’ raw, candid reaction to this year’s NCAA tournament being canceled tells all you need to know about what this major story means to the athletes.

You don’t need to be an expert to know that every athlete is, on some level, feeling the same pain as Lamar Stevens right now. For reasons completely out of their control, the student-athletes no longer have a chance to compete for a championship and, in some cases, wrap up their careers with a grand, well-deserved senior day in Happy Valley.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend my sister’s senior day for the University of Georgia’s equestrian team. I, along with the families of my sister’s classmates, still look back on that day as one of the proudest of my life. Some of this year’s seniors — and their families — were robbed of those senior day memories, the pride that comes with them, and most of all, closure to their college careers.

Instead, the class of 2020’s time as student-athletes will end as abruptly as the snap of a finger. Whether they’re my sister’s old teammates down in Athens or the student-athletes I’ve watched and covered up here in Happy Valley, my heart aches for everybody who was robbed of a fitting ending to four years of hard work and commitment to their university.

As fans and observers, it’s easy to think of the “big sports” and their student-athletes. Men’s basketball superstar Lamar Stevens poignantly shared his emotions about his only shot to play in the NCAA tournament being ripped away by circumstances. Mike Watkins, Curtis Jones Jr., Stephen Beattie, and Grant Hazle also lost that opportunity.

The wrestling program’s five seniors — including Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph, and Shakur Rasheed — helped continue the greatest dynasty in all of college sports. Right now, they can’t do anything to continue that legacy in a year when it was put to its greatest test. Another 13-man senior class headlined by star attackmen Grant Ament and Mac O’Keefe have transformed men’s lacrosse into one of those “big sports” at Penn State.

And then there’s the men’s hockey senior class — a group of 10 student-athletes who all have a legitimate claim to be on the program’s all-time Mount Rushmore along with names like Gadowsky, Pegula, and Battista. Peyton Jones is the greatest goaltender to have ever worn a Nittany Lion sweater, and Nate Sucese and Liam Folkes’ excellence up front helped, in Guy Gadowsky’s words, “take the eventually away” and turn the dream of an elite, winning Penn State hockey program into reality.

With 31 total varsity sports, however, dozens of other seniors will be robbed of their final chance to compete at the collegiate level. They’ll be robbed of the opportunity to pull a blue and white uniform over their head with their brothers and sisters, and they won’t have a chance to win a championship anymore.

Below is the list of every senior student-athlete who just lost their last chance to compete with their teammates as a Nittany Lion. They deserve recognition for what they have accomplished here at least some type of sendoff, even if it isn’t the normal senior day festivities. Thank you for all you did for this university.

  • Baseball: Gavin Homer, Jacob Padilla, Mason Nadeau
  • Men’s basketball: Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins, Curtis Jones Jr., Stephen Beattie, Grant Hazle
  • Track & Field: Marisa Dechert, Maddie Holmberg, Kiara Lester, Danae Rivers, Kathryn Munks; William Ashenfelter, Michael Biddle, Spencer Hay, David Lucas, Domenic Perretta, Billy McDevitt, Andrew Sell
  • Fencing: Karen Chang, Alissa Gozali, Jiajing Li, Medora McCarthy, Jade Rowland, Barbara Vanbenthuysen; Andrew Grass, Andrey Ostatnigrosh, Clinton Rodell, Felipe Rosario
  • Golf: Ashni Dhruva, Maddy Herr, Megan McLean; Alec Bard, Ryan Davis
  • Gymnastics: Brayden Borromeo, Isaac Hammett, Stephen Nedoroscik, Sam Zakutney; Erynne Allen, Tess McCracken, Kristen Politz
  • Hockey: Brandon Biro, Liam Folkes, Nate Sucese, Denis Smirnov, Nikita Pavlychev, Blake Gober, Kris Myllari, James Gobetz, Peyton Jones, Will Holtforster
  • Lacrosse: Grant Ament, TJ Connellan, Mac O’Keefe, Kevin Hill, Brandon Stern, Mitch Schaefer, Dylan Foulds, Nick Cardile, Nick McEvoy, Tommy Wright, Barrett Sutley, Colby Kneese, Gerard Arceri; Katie Schluederberg, Kristin Roberto, Yasmain Hamood, Brittany Dolan, Hayley Deagostine, Madison Cunningham, Madison Carter, Maria Auth, Shannon Moore
  • Softball: Amanda Grieco, Christa Wagner, Hannah Shields, Madey Smith, Destiny Weber
  • Swimming & Diving: Hannah Blaser, Christina Crowell, Elaina Faerber, Amber Glenn, Maddie Hart, Heather MacDougall, Siena Salvaggio, Cara Treble; Matthew DiNunzio, Kaelan Freund, Liam Vegerin, Austin Wilson
  • Tennis: Christos Antonopoulos, Christian Lakoseljac, Gabriel Nemeth, Noah Sutter; Shannon Hanley, Samantha Smith
  • Men’s volleyball: Luke Braswell, Jason Donorovich, Calvin Mende, Henrik Falck Lauten, Nathan Smith
  • Wrestling: Mark Hall, Vincenzo Joseph, Shakur Rasheed, Dominic Giannangeli, Kyle Conel

Although the NCAA is reportedly on board with granting athletes who play spring sports an additional year of eligibility, nothing is set in stone there yet. For now, I have one simple message to these 107 student-athletes — though it may not mean much during this tough time:

Thank you. You are, and always will be, Penn State.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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