Scholar athletes: Seniors honored at awards banquet

By Alex Oltmanns

Monday marked an important day in Pitt athletics, as the University handed out its most… Monday marked an important day in Pitt athletics, as the University handed out its most prestigious scholar-athlete awards during the 2011 Senior Awards Banquet held in the William Pitt Union.

The David Sandberg Champion, Blue-Gold and the Panther awards went out to members of a wide range of Pitt teams. The winners will have their names etched in stone on the Varsity Walk between the Cathedral of Learning and Heinz Memorial Chapel.

E.J. Borghetti, Pitt’s senior associate athletic director and the master of ceremonies for the banquet, said that while the University hosts hundreds of athletics-based events each year, this night is extra special because it’s one of achievement.

“It’s a night that certainly merits celebration. It’s certainly one of the most gratifying events of the year,” Borghetti said.

Former Pitt quarterback Pat Bostick and men’s basketball center Gary McGhee were named the David Sandberg Champion awardees because the seniors best represented the qualities Sandberg exemplified while he was a wrestler at Pitt: dedication to academic and athletic excellence while striving to improve Pitt and its nearby communities.

Bostick, who earned his bachelor’s degree in communications early, will graduate with another degree in media and professional communications later this month before going to graduate school, played a key role in some of the football team’s biggest recent wins — its 13-9 win over West Virginia in 2007 and the 36-33 victory at Notre Dame in 2008.

Bostick cited his service-oriented involvement at Oakland’s Dan Marino Field, his work with Pitt chaplain Robert Brooks and his community engagement in the North Side as some of his most memorable charitable work with the youth of the community.

“I’ve had an unbelievable opportunity at Pitt to affect a lot of kids,” Bostick said. “It’s big for me to show kids that have dreams how they can achieve those dreams.”

During his time at Pitt, McGhee worked to become a premier defensive center. He is one of just 10 Pitt players to collect more than 100 career blocks,finishing his career with 114. McGhee also started in 68 straight games.

The Blue-Gold Awards, which are given to one male and one female athlete who demonstrate the best combination of academic excellence, athletic performance, leadership qualities and activities, were awarded to Kristen McMullan of the swimming team and wrestler Ryan Tomei.

McMullan is a star both in and out of the pool, having earned a perfect 4.0 GPA while also achieveing school records in the 50 freestyle and as a member of the 400-meter medley relay team.

Tomei wrapped up his career in the NCAA Tournament this season with a career record of 110-34, won EWL championships the past two seasons and was named the league’s Most Outstanding Wrestler last season. He’s a four-time EWL All-Academic Team honoree.

“It was definitely one of the best feelings I’ve had. It is probably the best recognition I have ever recieved, you know, to have your name be carved down in stone that will last forever,” Tomei said. “It’s especially nice because only a few wrestlers have ever won the award. [Coach] Rande [Stottlemyer] is one of the few that have won the award.”

Brad Wanamaker of the men’s basketball team and Pitt volleyball’s Amy Town were honored with the Panther Awards as the seniors who best promoted Pitt athletics through their outstanding athletic achievements.

Wanamaker is one of only two players in Pitt history to register more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in a career. He was also an All-Big East Second Team selection as well as the Big East Sportsmanship Award winner this past season.

Town, a Big East Academic All-Star, started in every one of the team’s 31 matches this season and is a two-time team captain as well as All-Big East selection.