ROSEMONT, Ill. - Illinois track & field and cross country star Nicole Choquette and national champion wrestler Isaiah Martinez garnered the prestigious Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor Monday night at the annual Fighting Illini Oskee Awards celebration held at State Farm Center.
Choquette quickly went from hometown walk-on to Big Ten Champion, winning the 2015 indoor 600m conference title during her sophomore season. The two-time All-Big Ten honoree and NCAA West Prelims qualifier has two other Big Ten podium finishes, taking second in the 800m at the 2016 Indoor Championships and third in the 800m at the 2018 Indoor Championships.
Academically, Choquette has a Bachelor of Science in Earth, Society, and Environmental Sustainability, graduating Summa cum laude with distinction in ESE with a 3.96 grade point average. She's on track to earn a Master of Science in plant biology with a 3.95 GPA. She earned the University of Honors-Bronze Tablet Award in 2016, is a three-time American Society of Plant Biology Conviron Scholar, three-time USTFCCCA Academic All-American, six-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and four-time Big Ten Distinguished Scholar between track & field and cross country.
Between training on the track and all the classroom work, Choquette still finds time to be involved in several community and campus events, such as serving as an OLLI Citizen Scientist Mentor, being a Pollen Power Camp Counselor and taking part in Genome Day, Plants iView, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Crisis Nursery Holiday Shop, Jock Jams and more.
"Nicole's journey as a student-athlete is the example for all to emulate," said Mike Turk, head track & field coach. "Her Big Ten Championship and University of Honors-Bronze Tablet Award are a testament to her commitment to recognize, seize and maximize opportunities on her journey through life. It is easy see the focus and determination on Nicole's face when she trains and competes. I've seen how she inspires her teammates through both actions and words. She is conscientious, has a kind heart and has positively impacted her team, university and community. Nicole is a true Fighting Illini success story."
Martinez wrapped-up his Illinois career as the most successful wrestler in program history and as one of the most accomplished collegiate wrestlers of all time. The accolades speak for themselves – two-time NCAA Champion, four-time NCAA finalist, four-time Big Ten Champion, four-time All-American, career record of 116-3. On the international level, Martinez placed fifth at the 2017 U23 World Championship and is a member of the 2018 USA Freestyle World Cup Team.
In addition to unparalleled success on the mat, Martinez is a three-time team captain, a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and is involved with many youth wrestling groups. He's on track to earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Illinois and plans to continue his wrestling career while training in Champaign-Urbana.
"Isaiah is an incredible representative of our program and University," said Jim Heffernan, Illinois head wrestling coach. "He has fantastic work habits, great character, is unbelievably loyal and his will to win is like nothing I have ever been around. He is the most self-critical athlete I have coached, evaluating every second of every match to find something to improve on. He'll even talk to the coaches about ways his teammates can improve. Isaiah is incredibly visible in the wrestling world and is unbelievably accommodating toward people that want some of his time. He is the most impressive kid I have ever coached."
This year marks the 104th anniversary of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, awarded annually to one male and one female student-athlete from the graduating class of each member institution who has demonstrated excellence on and off the field throughout their college career. The conference's most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence.