Gerdes, Salazar Recipients of Big Ten Medal of Honor

MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Minnesota announced that Gianna Gerdes (gymnastics) and Isaiah Salazar (wrestling) are the school’s recipients of the Big Ten Medal of Honor, it was announced Monday.

The Big Ten Medal of Honor is awarded annually to a top female and male student-athlete at each conference institution, with this year’s honor marking the 110th anniversary of the award. The conference’s most exclusive award was the first of its kind in intercollegiate athletics to recognize academic and athletic excellence. The Big Ten Medal of Honor was first awarded in 1915 to one student-athlete from the graduating class of each university who had “attained the greatest proficiency in athletics and scholastic work.” Big Ten schools feature thousands of student-athletes, but only 28 earn this prestigious award on an annual basis.

Gerdes is the fourth Minnesota women’s gymnast to receive the honor, while Salazar is the 13th wrestler to do so.

A senior from Delaware, Ohio, Gerdes wrapped up an outstanding career in the Maroon and Gold this spring. Minnesota’s lone all-around performer had a marvelous final season at the ‘U.’ She was an AAI Award nominee for top senior gymnast in the country in addition to being named First Team All-Big Ten. The 2024 Big Ten Gymnast to watch was named to the Big Ten All-Championships Team for the second time and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection for the third straight year.

She had her best season as a Gopher in 2024, competing in all 14 meets in every single event, posting averages of 9.829 on vault, 9.869 on bars, 9.783 on beam, and 9.885 on the floor. She won 11 event titles this winter, including six all-around, two on bars, and one each on vault, beam, and floor. Gerdes earned her best-ever all-around score, a 39.575, on March 1 at Boise State, in a performance that included 9.925s on bars and floor and a 9.875 on vault.

Gerdes is a two-time First Team All-Big Ten honoree, a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar, and a 2023 WCGA Scholastic All-American. She was named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week on Feb. 20, 2023. The all-arounder was a member of the 2021 Big Ten Championship team, helping the Gophers win their sixth-ever conference title. She was also a key participant on the 2022 team that finished sixth at NCAA nationals, the highest-ever finish in Minnesota gymnastics history.

Salazar is coming off a senior season that saw him win the Big Ten title at 184 pounds and become an All-American for the first time in his career with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Salazar is the first Gopher at 184 to be an All-American since 2014. He’s just the fifth Gopher ever to win a conference title at the weight and the first to do so since 2012.

A Greeley, Colo., native, Salazar ended the year with a 24-4 record, including a streak of 18 straight wins from early December to the NCAA semifinals. During the streak, Salazar outscored opponents 155-23 and held opponents to three points or fewer in all but one match. In fact, he gave up two points or fewer in 14 of the 18 matches.

Ranked 10th or better all season, he was undefeated in dual season with an 11-0 mark, including a 7-0 record in conference action. Against ranked opponents, he was 9-3, while on the season, he posted seven wins by tech fall and four by major decision. Named an NWCA Scholar All-American and an Academic All-Big Ten honoree, Salazar posted many notable wins during the season. He was co-champion with teammate Max McEnelly at the Soldier Salute, and during the Big Ten season, he scored wins over the No. 3, 16, 31, and 33-ranked wrestlers in the country.

For his career, Salazar is 63-14 with a 29-4 record in conference play. He’s a three-time NCAA qualifier and three-time Big Tens placewinner. He’s also been named an NWCA Scholar All-American three times and ranks 27th in program history in career win percentage (.818).

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