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Staff Picks: Our Favorite 2021-22 Penn State Student-Athletes

Naturally, we all love our student-athletes here in Happy Valley. However, some stand out more than others due to their play, contributions to the school and community, and more.

As the academic year comes to a close, a handful of our staffers offered their takes on their favorite Penn State student-athletes.

Sam Brungo: Sadie Schumann

As a standout 200 free, Nittany Lion swimmer Sadie Schumann has proven that she has what it takes to be a fan-favorite athlete in the water. But what makes Sadie Schumann my favorite athlete isn’t what she does in the water; it’s what she does on deck. 

When Sadie isn’t at McCoy Natatorium, you can find her giving back to the State College community. Stuck close to campus to train, she spends her time in the summer coaching youth swimming at Science Park Pool, helping to spread the same love for the sport that she loves so much. Last summer, Schumann helped coach the Blue Dolphins to an undefeated season, winning the Centre Parks Swim League championship.

It’s always fun to root for the player who is scoring the goals and throwing the touchdowns, but sometimes, the most admirable thing an athlete can do is give back.

Sam Fremin: Jesse Luketa

This year, there were few athletes with a more inspiring season than Jesse Luketa. After three seasons of gritty linebacker play, Luketa was asked to change positions and fill his team’s gap at defensive end. Though some might expect a steep learning curve or a disappointing result in the tough Big Ten conference, Luketa shined, recording a career-high 61 tackles and even a one-handed pick-six against Ball State. 

His work ethic was on display even well after the regular season-ending. Despite multiple high-profile Nittany Lions opting out of their eventual Outback Bowl loss, Luketa waited until after the game to declare for the NFL Draft. His impressive work at the senior bowl and Penn State’s pro day led one pundit to predict an unexpected first-round selection for Luketa on draft day. However, if his best friend Micah Parsons has anything to say about it, my favorite Nittany Lion of 2022 will join my favorite NFL team: the Dallas Cowboys.

Mikey DeAngelis: Seth Kuhn

Seth Kuhn had a phenomenal season for the Penn State’s Men’s Soccer team. He finished the season this year with five goals and eight assists. Kuhn’s stats reflect his phenomenal season, but only those who watched the games know how important his clutch goals and playmaking abilities were, especially towards the end of the season. His two goals in the regular-season finale against Wisconsin propelled the team into their historic postseason run, which ended with the Nittany Lions winning the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles for the first time in program history. Kuhn was drafted by the New York Red Bulls in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, and I wish him the best in his professional soccer career.

Keeley Lamm: Makenna Marisa

Makenna Marisa is bound to be considered a Lady Lion legend by the end of her career. Heck, she’s pretty much already a Lady Lion legend following her junior season.

Marisa was essential to the Lady Lions’ lineup this past season and served as the team’s sharpshooter with 22.2 points per game. She posted five games with more than 30 points, further emphasizing her influence on the team and on the scoreboard.

The guard finished this past season ranked second in the Big Ten in scoring with 630 points and never failed to create an electric atmosphere in the BJC. This girl is going places and was thrilling to watch this year.

Will Pegler: Nick Lee

Chop wood, carry water. Nick Lee is undoubtedly one of Penn State’s greatest wrestlers ever and solidified that title just a few weeks ago in Detroit when he took home yet another national championship. 

Lee is just pure consistency and clearly comes from the Cael Sanderson school of just doing your job and letting the rest take care of itself.

Frankie Marzano: Ryan Kirwan

There’s just something about Ryan Kirwan that is so likable, besides the fact that he was by far and away Penn State men’s hockey’s best freshman this year. He has one of the best releases of any player in the Big Ten, which makes him an absolute hassle for goalies to deal with. There’s also some humble swagger this kid has. He seems quiet, but when he scores a goal he also has some of the best celebrations on the team. I mean, just look at this kid. What a stud.

Nolan Wick: Josie Bothun

Women’s hockey goaltender Josie Bothun is absolutely outstanding. Bothun’s 1.73 goals-against average was the best in the CHA last season, and her .921 save percentage was third-best as well. Bothun kept Penn State in the game and even stole a few wins time and time again throughout the season. The Penn State goalie virtually guarantees the Nittany Lions a competitive chance every game and should continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Matt DiSanto: Jonni Parker

A four-time All-American who recently started her own nonprofit to support and encourage those 18 years and younger with hearing loss. Need I say more?

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