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NWMA announces annual award winners for 2022-23 season

by Jason Bryant, National Wrestling Media Association

New Brighton, Minnesota – The National Wrestling Media Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover college, high school and international wrestling, has announced its annual awards for the 2022-23 season.


Journalist of the Year is NCAA.com’s Shannon Scovel, while Rock Harrison of the ACC Network and ESPN takes home Broadcaster of the Year honors. IAwrestle’s Randi Yeager is the Photographer of the Year. MatScouts is named the Outlet of the Year, while D3 Nation won Podcast of the Year. From the sports information side of the industry, Kaylie Noll of Little Rock is the Division I SID of the Year, while Kerry Kahl of Division III Cornell College won the Small College SID of the Year.


“As always, it’s a very deserving group of people who care very much about the sport of wrestling,” said NWMA President Jason Bryant. “What’s also interesting about this year’s group of winners is it’s the largest number of women – three individual winners and one contributor - we’ve been able to recognize in any awards year.”


“The dedication to their craft and the wrestling community is truly inspiring,” said NWMA Treasurer and award-winning photographer Tony Rotundo. “We commend them all for their hard work, passion, and commitment to the sport.”


The daughter of a Division I wrestling All-American and a Division I swimmer herself, NCAA.com wrestling beat reporter Shannon Scovel has long been associated with sports. She developed her interest in journalism while in high school in North Carolina and pursued her passion for the written word and swimming at American University. While at American, she was a student reporter for the AU student paper and covered two NCAA Championships. A Fulbright Scholar, Scovel completed her Master’s degree in Scotland, focusing on the representation of women in British newspapers during the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympic Games. Her work with the NCAA began as a postgraduate intern for NCAA.com and evolved into being the lone beat reporter for wrestling for NCAA.com. During that time, she completed her PhD at Maryland, where her father Curt was an All-American in 1987. When Scovel is not covering wrestling, she’s an assistant professor of sports communication at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.


“Covering college wrestling for NCAA.com has been such a special experience for me,” said Scovel. “One of the things that makes wrestling so unique is the tight-knit nature of the sport, and I'm truly grateful for the mentors that I've had who have helped me find my place in this community. I'm honored to be recognized as Journalist of the Year alongside so many other incredible reporters, content creators, podcasters, and sports information directors.” “Shannon’s dedication to her craft has been evident since the moment she started covering the sport,” said Bryant. “Being able to take her deep knowledge of journalism and apply it to wrestling for a broad audience, at the same time continuing to be able to tell informative stories to an already well-educated fanbase is a delicate balance – and she’s thrived doing it.”


Scovel is the second woman to earn the award, joining the late Diane Seaman of Iowa, who was honored along with her husband Ron in 1995-96 for their work with The Predicament, a longtime Iowa wrestling newspaper.


Bursting through viewers' computers and television screens and into wrestling fans' living rooms during the pandemic, Rock Harrison has quickly become one of wrestling's fan-favorite broadcasters. A former wrestler at the University of Virginia, Harrison stayed involved with the sport after his career in Charlottesville came to a close by coaching at the high school level and officiating at both the high school and collegiate levels. However, Harrison's emotional attachment to the sport becomes most evident when he serves as a color commentator and rules analyst for college wrestling broadcasts on ESPN and the ACC Network.


Harrison has been a staple on the ACC Championships broadcast since 2015, but it was during the pandemic when television networks got creative and started using remove broadcasters who call the action from their homes, offices, or mancaves. "Rock's unique ability to communicate to all levels of the wrestling audience is what stands out," said regular broadcast partner and 2021-22 NWMA Broadcaster of the Year Shawn Kenney. "His genuine and authentic passion for the sport captures the attention of the novice fan while the diligence and attention to detail in describing a certain move or rule is appealing to the biggest wrestling spectator. Everyone can sense the sheer joy he has for calling the sport. His energy is contagious." Prior to wrestling at Virginia, he was a National Prep runner-up for Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland.


You'll see Harrison paired with Shawn Kenney and Mike Couzens for national broadcasts of duals as well as part of the ESPN broadcast team for the NCAA Division I Championships. "I am honored to be recognized by the National Wrestling Media Association as the 2022-23 Broadcaster of the Year. I am grateful to the Lord, my family, and colleagues for challenging and encouraging me," said Harrison. "Covering this great sport for the fans, new and old, is beyond a joy. I am hopeful that I will get better and remain authentic."


Quickly becoming one of IAwrestle’s most prolific shooters, Randi Yeager didn’t start out as a photographer, but first as a wrestling sister and then a wrestling mom. Her photography exploits began in high school, but since catching on with IAwrestle in 2021, Yeager has been a fixture across the state of Iowa and the upper Midwest, capturing events from the youth level all the way up to the NCAA events.


“There are so many talented photographers that I am grateful to sit matside with and be able to learn from and share knowledge with,” said Yeager. “I am so thankful to the National Wrestling Media Association for recognizing my work and the amount of love and passion I have for my job. I love every level of the sport, from super pee wee state to NCAA Championships, my job brings something new everyday and I am proud to work for IAwrestle and am forever grateful that Tony Hager took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity to grow and do what I love.”


This is Yeager’s first award from the NWMA and the second by IAwrestle, which received Website of the Year for 2016-17.


“Randi’s exceptional talent and dedication to capturing the essence of wrestling through her lens is excellent,” said Rotundo. “Her photographs have brought the sport to life, telling stories, and evoking emotions. Her work is a testament to her passion and skill. We look forward to seeing more of her captivating images in the future.”


“Randi came in with a passion for wrestling and covering the sport at all levels,” said IAwrestle founder Tony Hager. “All of us at IAwrestle couldn’t be more proud of her on winning this award. The time away from her family to cover other wrestlers from other families does come at a cost. Our sport needs more women journalists and Randi deserves all the recognition she garners.”


Under the direction of Willie Saylor, MatScouts has emerged as one of the top resources for high school ranking information and wrestling commentary. Saylor, a multiple-time NWMA award winner, is aided in his high school rankings and prospect coverage by several contributors, including longtime high school analyst Josh Lowe. Hosted on the Rokfin platform, MatScouts' high school rankings, class rankings, and "Big Board" rankings are among the sport's most researched and are frequently updated. "It's hard to find anyone as dialed into the high school wrestling scene as much as Willie is," said Rotundo. "It's actually quite common to see him posting updates at all hours of the day and night – in some cases – in different places around the world." Saylor's MatScouts also operates his First Word show and will routinely work with events to stream notable high school wrestling tournaments around the country.


"I'm truly honored to win this award, not just as a personal accolade, but as a site. I set out to make MatScouts the best national high school resource for the wrestling community and that my peers voted this way suggests I'm on the right track," said Saylor. "Their vote of confidence will encourage me to work both harder and more creatively to evolve MatScouts' content offerings and service to the community." Saylor's other awards from the NWMA are the Journalist of the Year in 2011-12 and as part of FloWrestling's Website of the Year award in 2018-19. Saylor also owns InterMat, the 2021-22 winner for Outlet of the Year.


Twin brothers Anthony and Gennaro Bonaventura don’t just love talking about Division III wrestling; they’ve lived and breathed it since they were varsity wrestlers at Division III Waynesburg College in Pennsylvania. Launched in June of 2020 at the height of the pandemic, the pair had begun coaching careers and wanted a way to not just keep up with Division III wrestling around the country, but also share the interesting stories within it. Anthony, a national runner-up at Waynesburg at 174 pounds in 2014, is currently an assistant coach at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, while Gennaro is in his second season as the head coach at Fairmont State University in West Virginia, a Division II school. Gennaro also played football during his time as a student-athlete at Waynesburg.


The pair recently went over the 100-episode mark, and their shows highlight individual athletes, coaches, and former Division III greats while discussing the relevant and notable results in the sport. “My brother and I love being able to support DIII Wrestling with this podcast. We believe it serves as a platform to consistently share stories and content with the focus being DIII coaches and athletes. We are trying to provide coverage for the level of college wrestling that is often overlooked but is an outstanding division with high-level wrestling,” said Anthony.


“It’s great doing the podcast with my brother because we both have a passion for it. It’s great hearing different perspectives and stories from across the country to not only share but for ourselves to learn from it. It’s made us both better coaches. We’re excited to continue to grow our podcast, and we appreciate everyone’s support,” added Gennaro.


“Small college wrestling is often overlooked by the masses of wrestling fans, but what Anthony and Gennaro provide is very dynamic – they both wrestled at that level, they both coached at that level, and they both have insight about Division III wrestling that you’re not going to find in the wrestling media or podcast space to that degree,” said Bryant. “What I really appreciate about the show is they cast a wide net. They could easily spend any amount of time they wanted talking about their schools or their alma mater, but their sincerity with their passion for this level of wrestling is informative, refreshing, and fun.”


Prior to arriving at Little Rock in 2019 as a graduate assistant in the Trojans’ athletic communications department, Kaylie Noll's exposure to wrestling was essentially non-existent. A Division I collegiate swimmer as an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Noll was assigned wrestling from the program’s launch. After completing her Master’s, Noll stayed on with the department, handling wrestling and swimming. Over the past five seasons, Noll’s responsibilities have included the industry standard previews and recaps, but Noll also provides some of the most comprehensive match notes in Division I on top of handling the instantaneous nature of social media graphics and updates.


“I have enjoyed every moment of covering Little Rock’s rise over the past five years, from their beginnings as a scrappy group of underdogs to a proud, nationally ranked team today,” said Noll. “Accepting this award is just another part of my journey to help put the Trojans on the map, and I’m incredibly surprised yet grateful and honored to be recognized among such a brilliant and passionate community.” “We are very grateful for Kaylie,” said Little Rock head coach Neil Erisman. “Much like the guys, she has been here since the beginning. Most people don’t know she has two full-time jobs and works tirelessly. The amount of attention we have gotten because of her work is incredible. The entire program is thankful for Kaylie.” Outside of wrestling, Noll has received two Silver Creator Awards via YouTube for her full-time position with MySwimPro and the Fares Ksebati channels, where she’s helped those platforms grow to over 100,000 subscribers each.


In the world of small college athletics, the SID is often the busiest person in the department. In his 17th season working with wrestling, Cornell College’s Kerry Kahl checks that box. In addition to handling the normal coverage duties associated with men’s wrestling, Cornell College launched a women’s program as one of the school’s 20 sports this season. Kahl has been a fixture at wrestling events in Cedar Rapids, including serving as the media coordinator for six NCAA Division III championships hosted in the city. An active member of College Sports Communicators (formerly CoSIDA), Kahl has served as the Midwest Conference Chair for the Sports Information Directors Committee, hosted eight NCAA championships and 22 conference tournaments, just to name a few.


“I am extremely humbled to be honored among all of the dedicated small-school SIDs who share the same passion for the sport of wrestling. The past 17 years, I’ve been fortunate to cover Cornell’s storied wrestling program and the opportunities that came with, highlighted by hosting six NCAA Division III Championships,” said Kahl. “From the late Hall of Fame coach Mike Duroe to current coach Brent Hamm, their student-athletes have provided many of the most memorable moments I’ve experienced in this profession. I thank the National Wrestling Media Association and all of the people who have supported me along the way for this tremendous honor.” “Kerry has been one of those constant stable forces in Division III wrestling. He’s been doing the little things that help media professionals do their job just that much better,” said Bryant. “When Kerry’s on site, you know you’ll get everything you need – and then some – when covering an event either at Cornell College or a Division III championship.”

Methodology: Established in 1989, the NWMA awards process is entirely member driven. Active members nominate in the appropriate category, and after all the nominations are collected, the officers select finalists. These finalists are then sent back to the membership for voting on the winner.


Information on how to join the association as well as a full list of previous winners can be found on the association’s website at nationalwrestlingmedia.com


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