Scott Dochterman/Land of 10
The Washington Nationals drafted Iowa catcher Tyler Cropley in the eighth round of the 2018 major-league draft.

Iowa readers tab surprise for top male athlete

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Iowa readers pick male athlete of the year

ANSWER: In what I’d describe as an upset, Iowa catcher Tyler Cropley nearly doubled runner-up Spencer Lee to win Land of 10’s poll for Iowa male athlete of the year.

Cropley finished with 508 votes, nearly half of the 1,095 cast. Lee, who won the 125-pound NCAA wrestling title, had 263 votes. Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell, who was named the Big Ten’s defensive player of the year, was third with 228 votes, followed by Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson. Both Jewell and Jackson were unanimous first-team All-Americans. Rounding out the list were runner Mar’yea Harris and discus thrower Reno Tuufuli, both of whom were first-team All-Americans.

Cropley, a senior, had a splendid season for the Hawkeyes, who barely missed the NCAA Tournament. Cropley earned first-team All-Big Ten catcher honors and was named a second-team All-American. Cropley hit a team-best .342 and led the Hawkeyes in hits (68), doubles (20), RBI (50), slugging percentage (.578), and on-base percentage (.449). Cropley also tied for the team lead with 43 runs and was second with 9 home runs.

Among Big Ten players, Cropley ranked in the top 15 in nine offensive categories. He also had a knack for coming up with key hits in crucial moments. Cropley had a pair of walk-off home runs. He hit a grand slam in Iowa’s 13-9 victory against Bradley and a two-run homer to give the Hawkeyes a 7-5 victory over No. 7 Michigan. Cropley was selected in the eighth round of the MLB draft by the Washington Nationals.

Of all the years to vote on Iowa’s top male athlete, this was the most difficult. Iowa wrestling frequently crowns national champions but rarely are they as dominant as Lee, who amassed 27.5 points at the NCAA Tournament. Every few years under football coach Kirk Ferentz, Iowa picks up a consensus All-American. But Jewell was named the league’s top defender. Jackson notched the national high and tied the school record with 8 interceptions.

If I picked only one athlete, I’d probably go with Jewell. Lee’s performance at nationals was incredible, but he didn’t win the Big Ten title (he’s only a freshman, too). Jackson’s single-season heroics were on an equal level with Jewell’s superb season. Jewell’s 136 tackles lead the Big Ten, and he ranked fourth nationally in tackles per game (11.3).

Harris was fourth in the 400-meter run, and Tuufuli was fifth in the discus. If every athlete’s season was equally tremendous, career accomplishments have to enter the discussion. Jewell was the first three-time captain in Iowa football history. Enough said.

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