Storm has nation’s top player in Wingert

It can be argued that St. John’s men’s soccer standout ChrisWingert had the best start to a new year in school history.

After competing in the NCAA championship game (a 2-1 loss toIndiana on Dec. 14), training with the Under-23 national team forthe upcoming Olympic qualifiers and graduating a semester early,the Babylon native’s busy schedule continued on the second Fridayof 2004, as Wingert was named winner of the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy,college soccer’s version of the Heisman Award, on Jan. 9.

And if that wasn’t enough, Wingert was selected 12th overall bythe Columbus Crew in the annual Major League Soccer Super Draft onJan. 16.

“This is one of the greatest thrills in my life,” Wingert saidafter he was announced the 36th winner of the Hermann Trophy, anaward that honors the top player in Division I soccer, which wasannounced at the Missouri Athletic Club.

“When I came to St. John’s, I wanted to play at the highestlevel of college soccer I could. I had a tremendous opportunity tolearn under someone like Coach [Dave] Masur, and I earned a greateducation at the same time. To be recognized for my athleticabilities and my academics means a lot to me. I extend my thanks tothe National Soccer Coaches Association of America, and to theMissouri Athletic Club, for bestowing me with these honors.”

Wingert beat out Maryland forward Sumed Ibrahim and CoastalCarolina’s Joseph Ngwenya in the voting by members of the NationalSoccer Coaches Association of America.

The Big East Defensive Player of the Year became the firstplayer in St. John’s history to win the award and the firstdefender to win the honor since Connecticut’s Chris Gbandi in2000.

He also moves into an elite club of former St. John’s standouts,as he became one of four SJU student-athletes to earn NationalPlayer of the Year honors, joining men’s basketball players WalterBerry and Chris Mullin, and fencer Ivan Lee.

Catherine Reddick of North Carolina, who helped lead theTarheels to the NCAA championship, won the women’s award. It markedthe first time ever that two defenders walked away with the annualprize.

In winning the award, the team captain and defensive specialistbecame the first player in Division I men’s soccer history to winboth the Hermann Trophy and the NSCAA Scholar-Athlete Award in thesame season.

Despite winning the award, Wingert admitted he’d rather haveraised the National Championship trophy instead.

“It’s an individual award and soccer’s a team game, as everyoneknows,” Wingert was reported as saying in local newspapers. “I’dtrade it in a heartbeat for a national championship and to havebeaten Indiana.”

The Johnnies finished the 2003 season with a 17-6-3 record andfinished the season ranked No. 2 in the country after coming up onegoal short to Indiana in the championship game. Number 7 alsohelped lead the Red Storm to the Big East regular seasonchampionship, something Wingert was hoping for all season long.

St. John’s was the top-seeded team in the league after winningits 11th Big East Championship (combined regular season andtournament) in the last 12 years.

Wingert was also named the College Sports Information Directorsof America Academic All-American of the Year, after he helped St.John’s register a league-high 11 shutouts and limit conferenceopponents to eight goals in 10 games.

Wingert is the first player in SJU history to capture the awardand fourth player from the Big East conference, joining AlexisLalas of Rutgers (1991), Joe Morrone of Connecticut (1984) andChris Gbania of Connecticut (2000).

He is one of only three winners who played for a MetropolitanNew York School, joining Long Island’s Dov Markus, who won theinaugural award in 1967, and Colombia’s Amr Aly, who won in1984.