57 Huskers to earn degrees Saturday

Posted By: Sports


Courtesy: NU Media Relations

Lincoln – A total of 57 Husker student-athletes will earn degrees this weekend at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s commencement exercises at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

Saturday morning’s undergraduate commencement will include 21 current or former Nebraska football student-athletes. The group also features eight student-athletes who combined for 19 All-America awards in their respective sports and a pair of 2016 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.

Coach Mike Riley’s Huskers are scheduled to have 22 players compete with degrees in hand during the football team’s Music City Bowl match-up with Tennessee on Dec. 30. It marks the second-highest number of graduates on a bowl roster during the 2016 bowl season, trailing only Temple’s 26.

The 57 Huskers across all sports graduating on Saturday mark an increase of 18 graduates compared to last December for the Nebraska Athletic Department.

Among the notable Husker football student-athletes earning their degrees on Saturday will be Nebraska’s career total offense and touchdown leader, four-year starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. Senior starting receivers Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp, senior tight ends Sam Cotton and Trey Foster, and senior starting offensive linemen Dylan Utter and Sam Hahn provide an impressive group a Husker offensive graduates. Senior starting linebacker Josh Banderas, senior starting defensive tackle Kevin Maurice and senior starting defensive end Ross Dzuris headline the Blackshirts in the Big Red football team’s graduating class.

Ty Betka, Garret Johns, Spencer Lindsay, Mitch McCann, Graham Nabity, Robby Painter, Logan Rath, Brad Simpson and Tanner Zlab round out the group of current Husker football student-athletes set to graduate Saturday.

In addition, former Husker I-back Imani Cross and former Blackshirt Jason Wiltz are expected to graduate. Wiltz was a member of Nebraska’s 1994, 1995 and 1997 national championship teams. As a starting defensive tackle in 1997 and 1998, Wiltz recorded 69 tackles with six tackles for loss including three sacks. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the New York Jets and spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons with the Jets.

Coach John Cook’s Nebraska volleyball program adds four illustrious graduates to the group with All-American outside hitter Kadie Rolfzen, All-American middle blocker Amber Rolfzen and All-American libero Justine Wong-Orantes. Former Husker Kelsey Fien, who was an honorable-mention AVCA All-American in 2014 and helped the Huskers capture the 2015 NCAA Championship, also will graduate. In all, Nebraska’s four volleyball graduates combined for nine All-America awards on the court during their careers, including four from Kadie Rolfzen and two each from Amber Rolfzen and Wong-Orantes. Kadie Rolfzen added even more impressive accolades by becoming Nebraska volleyball’s nation-leading 38th CoSIDA Academic All-American as the program’s 21st first-team honoree. She was the 327th CoSIDA Academic All-American across all sports in school history.

Coach John Walker’s women’s soccer program contributes an All-America flavor of its own to the graduating class with the addition of senior Caroline Flynn, who earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors in 2016. Flynn entered her final semester at Nebraska with a 3.99 GPA as a communication studies major. She will be joined in soccer’s graduating class by former Husker Katie Kraeutner, who was a two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District selection (2014, 2015) and a three-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar.

Coach Dan Kendig’s Nebraska women’s gymnastics program adds more All-America accolades with three graduates led by six-time All-American Hollie Blanske. She will be joined by Madison McConkey and Ariel Martin as representatives of the women’s gymnastics team. 

The men’s gymnastics program guided by Coach Chuck Chmelka adds two graduates who have captured three All-America awards in their Husker careers. Two-time first-team parallel bars All-American Sam Chamberlain (2013, 2016) and 2016 first-team floor exercise All-American Austin Epperson will both earn diplomas on Saturday. Epperson will shoot for more while leading the Huskers as a senior in the gym in 2017.

Coach Darin Erstad’s Nebraska baseball program pitches in seven graduates to Nebraska’s large December total, including Jeff Chesnut, Tanner Lubach, Aaron Bummer, Christian Cox, Wes Edrington, Colton Howell and Jake Placzek.

Coach Gary Pepin’s track and field program contributes five graduates, including Jed Fenske, Mollie Gribbin, Christian Hodson, Danielle Jones and Sean Pille. Gribbin earned second-team All-America honors in the triple jump at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The Nebraska women’s swimming and diving team led by Pablo Morales features four graduates with Bria Deveaux, Katherine Ditter, Samantha Hardewig and Nicole Schwery representing the program’s strong academic tradition.

Coach Kerry McDermott’s men’s tennis program adds four graduates of its own with Scott Elsass, Marc Herrmann, Chris Schindler and Ford Zitsch all earning diplomas on Saturday.

Melanie Crawford (Bowling), Dawna Tyson (Softball), Magdalena Mical (Rifle) and Aaron and Nathan Wong (Men’s Golf) round out the distinguished group of December 2016 graduates for the Nebraska Athletic Department. The December graduates came from near and far to call Nebraska home during their careers. The group came to Lincoln from 15 states, including 28 native Nebraskans from 15 different towns across the Cornhusker state, while four Huskers came from foreign lands, including the Bahamas, Canada and Germany.

Nebraska continues to feature one of the highest graduation rates in the country, while leading the nation in the number of CoSIDA Academic All-Americans (327) and NCAA Top 10 Award winners (17) across all sports.

December 2016 Nebraska Student-Athlete Graduates (57)
Tommy Armstrong Jr., Football (Cibolo, Texas) Communication Studies
Josh Banderas, Football (Lincoln, Neb.) Management
Ty Betka, Football (Superior, Neb.) Political Science
Hollie Blanske, Women’s Gymnastics (Oak Grove, Minn.) Management/Marketing
Aaron Bummer, Baseball (Frisco, Texas) Finance
Sam Chamberlain, Men’s Gymnastics (Franklin, Ohio) Criminology & Criminal Justice
Jeff Chesnut, Baseball (Omaha, Neb.) Journalism
Sam Cotton, Football (Lincoln, Neb.) Business Administration/Marketing
Imani Cross, Football (Gainesville, Ga.) Ethnic Studies
Christian Cox, Baseball (Aberdeen S.D.) Nutrition Science
Melanie Crawford, Bowling (Plano, Texas) Management
Bria Deveaux, Swimming & Diving (Nassau, Bahamas) Finance/Marketing
Katherine Ditter, Swimming & Diving (Ralston, Neb.) Management/Marketing
Ross Dzuris, Football (Plattsmouth, Neb.) Business Administration
Wes Edrington, Baseball (Fishers, Ind.) Mathematics/Physics
Scott Elsass, Men’s Tennis (Eden Prairie, Minn.) Finance
Austin Epperson, Men’s Gymnastics (Allen, Texas) Criminology & Criminal Justice
Jed Fenske, Track & Field (Sargent, Neb.) Nutrition, Exercise & Health Science
Kelsey Fien, Volleyball (Bakersfield, Calif.) Applied Science
Trey Foster, Football (Lincoln, Neb.) Marketing
Caroline Flynn, Soccer (Lincoln, Neb.) Communication Studies
Mollie Gribbin, Track & Field (Montpelier, Vt.) Psychology
Sam Hahn, Football (DeWitt, Neb.) Agronomy
Samantha Hardewig, Swimming & Diving (Cincinnati, Ohio) Art/Art History & Criticism
Marc Hermann, Men’s Tennis (Rohrbach, Germany) Accounting/Finance
Christian Hodson, Track & Field (Hastings, Neb.) Management
Colton Howell, Baseball (O’Fallon, Mo.) Mathematics
Garret Johns, Football (Aurora, Neb.) Agronomy
Danielle Jones, Track & Field (Omaha, Neb.) Criminology & Criminal Justice
Katie Kraeutner, Soccer (North Saanich, British Columbia) Nutrition, Exercise & Health Science
Spencer Lindsay, Football (Kearney, Neb.) History
Tanner Lubach, Baseball (Lincoln, Neb.) Business Administration
Ariel Martin, Women’s Gymnastics (Chicago, Ill.) Advertising & Public Relations
Kevin Maurice, Football (Orlando, Fla.) Management
Magdalena Mical, Rifle (Clearwater, Fla.) Advertising & Public Relations/French
Mitch McCann, Football (Omaha, Neb.) Marketing
Madison McConkey,
 Women’s Gymnastics (Lincoln, Neb.) Business Administration
Graham Nabity, Football (Omaha, Neb.) Construction Management
Robby Painter, Football (Centennial, Colo.) Mechanical Engineering
Sean Pille, Track & Field (Oakland, Neb.) Elementary Education
Jake Placzek, Baseball (La Vista, Neb.) Communication Studies
Logan Rath, Football (Giltner, Neb.) Agricultural Economics
Brandon Reilly, Football (Lincoln, Neb.) Management/Marketing
Amber Rolfzen, Volleyball (Papillion, Neb.) Business Administration
Kadie Rolfzen, Volleyball (Papillion, Neb.) Advertising & Public Relations
Chris Schindler, Men’s Tennis (Hanau, Germany) Accounting/Finance
Nichole Schwery, Swimming & Diving (Roca, Neb.) Biological Systems Engineering
Brad Simpson, Football (Omaha, Neb.) Communication Studies
Dawna Tyson, Softball (Corona, Calif.) Communication Studies
Dylan Utter, Football (Papillion, Neb.) History
Jordan Westerkamp, Football (Lombard, Ill.) Management
Jason Wiltz, Football (New Orleans, La.) Sociology
Aaron Wong, Men’s Golf (Chandler, Ariz.) Advertising & Public Relations/Broadcasting
Nate Wong, Men’s Golf (Chandler, Ariz.) Advertising & Public Relations/Broadcasting
Justine Wong-Orantes, Volleyball (Cypress, Calif.) Child, Youth & Family Studies
Ford Zitsch, Men’s Tennis (Columbia, Mo.) Agronomy
Tanner Zlab, Football (Wilber, Neb.) Agronomy/Fisheries & Wildlife