Your Beacon Athlete of the Year bracket has likely been busted from the start. Not many people could’ve predicted the upsets we’ve witnessed throughout the tournament, and not one submitted bracket had two double-digit seeds facing off in the championship.
But yet, fate and the voters had other ideas, and here we are. No. 13 Derek Nelson (football) will go into this match as the higher seed for the first time since the opening round. His opponent, No. 19 Moustafa Almeky (wrestling), is no stranger to being the underdog, as he’s been the lower seed in each match up so far.
Either way, history will be made at 8 p.m. on Thursday night, when one of the two is crowned The Beacon’s Athlete of the Year for 2020. A double-digit seed has yet to win the tournament. In fact, nobody lower than a five-seed has won the tournament in its first couple of years.
How they got to the Championship Round
The road to the championship hasn’t been easy for Nelson. His first-round matchup – the only one he was favorited in – was nearly a loss. After the first 21 hours of the poll, Nelson found himself losing a close race. A late push gave him a 57 percent to 43 percent victory.
Nelson then strung together three-straight upsets, knocking off No. 4 Rob Pecorelli, Wilkes’ first team all-conference guard for the men’s basketball team. Next came No. 5 Kyle Bentz, the top player for the men’s soccer team the last few years. Finally, and maybe the most impressive, was Nelson’s defeat of the top-seeded Donald Flynn, men’s ice hockey’s first team All-American and nominee for national player of the year.
Almeky’s path wasn’t any easier. His first-round matchup came against a fan-favorite, No. 14 Mark Mullins. Almeky handled Mullins with ease, pulling 62 percent of the vote. In the following round, he drew men’s ice hockey’s top defenseman, No. 3 Michael Gurska, who was named a second team All-American. Almeky took that match 60 percent to 40 percent.
The next matchup was the most intriguing. He went head-to-head with No. 11 RJ Rauh from men’s soccer. After a tampering issue with the polls and close to three hours remaining, the polls re-ran the following day, but just for the final three hours. It was a dramatic finish, but ultimately Almeky slightly edged Rauh to advance to the semifinals.
The last round for Almeky came against No. 10 Vinne Werner (football). Almeky won 56 percent of the vote in his most-recent competition to claim his spot in the championship.
What to expect in the final matchup
It is tough to predict what will happen in the final round. Both of these athletes are true Cinderella stories, and at this point, there will be no surprises.
Almeky’s polls have averaged the most votes so far, and he has won most by an overwhelming percentage. But Nelson has proven that he has a few tricks up his sleeve and has found a way to continue through each round.
All in all, we should be in for an exciting finish to another impressive Athlete of the Year tournament.