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Friday, December 23, 2005

Top Stories of 2005

Top Stories of 2005
By John Antonik for
December 24, 2005
  • MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When you’ve had unlikely March postseason runs in both men’s and women’s basketball, a pair of national champions crowned, two jersey numbers retired, a couple of thrilling overtime wins over nationally ranked teams, a former coach inducted into a national hall of fame, and a player whose name was turned into a verb, you know you’ve had a pretty good year.

    And that’s exactly what happened at West Virginia University in 2005. As we close out another year, let’s take a look back at the 20 biggest Mountaineer sports stories of 2005:

    WVU makes sixth straight NCAA appearance

    20. Women’s soccer earns sixth straight NCAA bid
    Veteran coach Nikki Izzo-Brown’s West Virginia University women’s soccer program is approaching dynasty status after receiving its sixth straight NCAA tournament bid in November. The Mountaineers spent a good portion of the season ranked in the Top 25 and advanced to second-round play for the fourth straight year. West Virginia, 15-6, finished the season ranked 19th in the NSCAA (coaches) national rankings.

    19. WVU announces construction of wrestling complex
    In May, West Virginia University announced the construction of a $1.2 million wrestling training complex that will be one of the finest of its kind in the country. The 9,000-square-foot training facility was made possible through the generous gift made by George Farmer, chairman of the board of trustees for the Hazel Ruby McQuain Charitable Trust. When completed, the structure will also serve as a USA Wrestling training facility.

    18. Women’s basketball reaches WNIT finals
    It’s hard to believe that just five years ago West Virginia was regularly losing 20 games a year and finishing at the bottom of the Big East Conference standings. Last spring, Mike Carey took the women’s basketball program to back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time in school history, advancing all the way to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament championship game where it lost at Southwest Missouri State. Along the way, the Mountaineers won key games against Wake Forest and Kentucky.

    17. Men’s basketball earns NCAA tournament bid
    West Virginia men’s basketball fans patiently waited six years to see its team’s name once again announced on the NCAA tournament selection show. The Big East tournament runners-up were the No. 7-seeded team facing No. 10-seeded Creighton in Cleveland. It was the school’s 19th NCAA tournament invitation.

    16. Pacman Jones sixth overall pick in NFL draft
    Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones became the eighth WVU player selected in the first round of the NFL draft and was the school’s highest player picked (sixth) since running back Dick Leftridge was taken third by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1966. Jones was also the first WVU player picked in the first round since tight end Anthony Becht was drafted 27th overall by the New York Jets in 2000.

    John Beilein

    15. John Beilein signs contract extension
    Following West Virginia’s remarkable NCAA tournament run, the school announced in March that it was extending men’s basketball coach John Beilein’s contract two years through the 2011-12 season. Beilein led WVU to a 24-11 record in 2005 and was within a basket of reaching the Final Four for the first time in 46 years. Beilein came to West Virginia in 2002 after coaching five seasons at Richmond where he compiled a 100-53 record for the Spiders.

    14. Men’s soccer returns to NCAA for first time in 13 years
    Coach Mike Seabolt remarkable rebuilding job was rewarded when his team was one of 48 selected to participate in the 2005 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships. It was the first NCAA tournament bid for the Mountaineers in 13 years. West Virginia won 13 matches against a season schedule considered one of the toughest in school history.

    13. Mike Gansey wins gold medal
    A once-in-a-lifetime experience for West Virginia guard Mike Gansey got even better when his USA Basketball Team defeated Ukraine, 85-70, to win a gold medal at the 2005 World University Games in Izmir, Turkey. Gansey became the first WVU men’s basketball player to play on a gold-medal winning team since Jerry West helped the U.S. team capture the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome.

    12. West Virginia upsets No. 7 Boston College
    West Virginia cracked open the door to the NCAA tournament with its Big East tournament first-round victory against Providence. It knocked it down a day later with an impressive 78-72 win over No. 7-rated Boston College in the tournament quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden. Mike Gansey scored 21 points and Kevin Pittsnogle added 17 to help the Mountaineers build an insurmountable 44-22 halftime lead over the ACC-bound Eagles.

    11. Rich Rodriguez named Big East coach of the year
    For the second time in three years, Rich Rodriguez’ coaching peers felt he did the best coaching job in the Big East. WVU’s fifth-year skipper led the Mountaineers to an unlikely 10-1 record that included a perfect 7-0 mark in Big East play. Rodriguez was also named a finalist for the Bear Bryant award as the nation’s top collegiate coach.

    Kevin Pittsnogle

    10. You’ve been Pittsnogled!
    It’s rare that your last name is turned into a verb but that is exactly what happened to West Virginia junior center Kevin Pittsnogle, whose play in the NCAA tournament made him a national sensation. Pittsnogle first got on the national radar in a game against Pitt on ESPN when he replaced starting center D’or Fischer and responded with 27 points in a Mountaineer upset victory. He went on to average nearly 17 points over his last 16 games and his performance in the NCAA tournament earned him an invitation to the NBA pre-draft workouts in Chicago. Pittsnogle decided to return to WVU for another year of legend making.

    9. Jerry West and Sam Huff numbers retired
    Numbers 44 and 75 will no longer be worn by Mountaineer players. The school announced in October that men’s basketball great Jerry West’s number 44 and football great Sam Huff’s number 75 is now officially retired. Both West Virginia greats have been inducted into their respective sports’ halls of fame.

    8. West Virginia stuns No. 21 Villanova to reach Big East finals
    Mike Gansey’s two free throws with two-tenths of a second remaining lifted West Virginia to a 78-76 victory over No. 21-ranked Villanova in the Big East tournament semifinals in Madison Square Garden. The victory elevated West Virginia to the Big East tournament championship game for the first time in school history and it was just the third time in Big East history that a team without a first-round bye advanced all the way to the finals.

    7. Don Nehlen elected into the College Football Hall of Fame
    Former West Virginia University coach Don Nehlen received college football's highest honor when he was inducted along with 11 others into the College Football Hall of Fame. The 12-member class was announced in May with a formal presentation taking place at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City on Dec. 6, 2005. The official enshrinement will be in August, 2006, in South Bend, Ind. Nehlen is just the ninth coach or athlete with West Virginia University ties elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

    Steve Slaton

    6. West Virginia’s 17-point rally defeats No. 19 Louisville
    With the stadium half empty and its goal of winning a third Big East title hanging in the balance, West Virginia overcame a 17-point fourth quarter deficit with 8 minutes left to defeat No. 19 Louisville in triple overtime, 46-44. The nation was formally introduced to outstanding freshmen Steve Slaton and Pat White, who keyed WVU’s unlikely comeback. Slaton equaled a Big East record with six touchdowns and also rushed for 188 yards, while White, subbing for injured starting quarterback Adam Bednarik, led West Virginia to scores on its last six possessions. It was the second biggest fourth-quarter comeback in Mountaineer Field history falling two points shy of a 19-point fourth quarter comeback against Maryland in 1992.

    5. West Virginia upsets No. 5 Wake Forest
    When you pull out the record books and you start sifting through the greatest basketball wins in West Virginia University history, the Mountaineers’ stunning 111-105 upset over No. 5-rated Wake Forest in the second round of the NCAA tournament has to be placed right near the top. West Virginia outlasted the heavily favored Demon Deacons in one of the most entertaining NCAA tournament games in years. Mike Gansey scored 29 points including 19 in both overtime periods to lift West Virginia to its first NCAA “Sweet 16” berth since 1998. WVU was able to hold on despite having three key players -- D’or Fischer, Tyrone Sally and J.D. Collins – on the bench with five fouls.

    4. Megan Metcalfe wins NCAA outdoor 5,000
    Senior Megan Metcalfe became just the third female track and field national champion in school history when she captured the NCAA Women’s Outdoor 5,000 with a time of 16:31.88 at Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif., in June. Making Metcalfe’s accomplishment even more impressive was the fact that she missed a large portion of the outdoor season fulfilling her internship requirements for a degree in physical therapy. The nine-time All-American helped West Virginia to a tie with Air Force and LSU for 20th at the national meet, making it the first top-20 finish in school history.

    3. Football captures 2005 Big East championship
    Despite winning a share of the last two Big East football titles, conference coaches thought West Virginia was the league’s third-best team behind newcomer Louisville and 2005 Fiesta Bowl participant Pittsburgh. Rich Rodriguez and his young Mountaineer football team had other ideas. WVU became the first Big East team since Miami in 2002 to go undefeated in conference play to capture its fourth Big East football title and second outright since 1993. By winning the Big East, West Virginia secured its fourth major bowl game appearance since 1954 and its third trip to the Sugar Bowl.

    Greg Jones

    2. Greg Jones claims third NCAA wrestling title
    Any list mentioning the greatest athletes in WVU sports history will also have to include the name Greg Jones. West Virginia’s remarkable senior wrestler claimed his third NCAA title at the 2005 NCAA Wrestling Championships in St. Louis. The 184-pounder defeated Cornell’s Tyler Baier, 5-3, to become just the 39th wrestler in NCAA history to capture three national titles. Jones was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler, becoming the first wrestler in EWL history to earn that distinction. In addition to his three titles, Jones also became just the 20th wrestler in NCAA history to win multiple titles in different weight classes. His other national title came at 174 pounds as a freshman. Jones compiled a 25-0 record as a senior and finished his WVU career 126-4.

    1. Men's Basketball NCAA Tournament Elite Eight run
    John Beilein’s 2005 West Virginia University men’s basketball team captured the hearts and minds of college basketball fans from coast to coast with his team’s remarkable NCAA tournament run that came within a basket of reaching the Final Four. By preaching unselfish team play and utilizing a motion offense that is a thing of beauty to watch, Beilein’s Mountaineers defeated Creighton, Wake Forest and Texas Tech before coming up short against Louisville in the NCAA Regional finals. Beilein’s can-do positive approach gave West Virginians a reason to dream big again, and his team of overachievers gave basketball purists a reason to cheer. It was the school’s deepest journey into the NCAA tournament in 46 years when the great Jerry West led West Virginia to the 1959 national championship game against Cal.

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