Cunningham recognized for character, academic performance

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JT Cunningham received numerous awards this spring for his character and academic standing at the University of Dubuque. He's pictured here with wrestling coach Jon McGovern. (Photo submitted)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg native JT Cunningham, son of Jim and Sharon Cunningham, received the Wendt Character and Wendt Character Athlete of the Year awards from the University of Dubuque this spring. He also earned a place on the Academic Dean’s List, the UD Academic All Team Members, and the IIAC Academic All-Americans.

“The thing I’m most proud of is not his wrestling career – it’s his character,” said JT’s father Jim. 

UD’s head wrestling coach Jon McGovern, who is the president of the NCAA III National Wrestling Coaches Association and campus coordinator for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, recommended JT for the character awards. 

“James was chosen from all the UD sports athletes as the top UD athlete for Character,” said McGovern. “JT is a very analytical wrestler who is also very aware of himself. He is a very hard working, dedicated, consistent wrestler that expects a lot from himself as a wrestler, leader, and student athlete on our campus. He is a very caring teammate and loved by everyone on the team!”

Wendt Character student athletes are committed to living lives of integrity, justice, and compassion in service of others. Wendt Character Athletes of the Year demonstrate qualities of excellent moral character, good sportsmanship and the virtues of honesty and stewardship, treating all people fairly, respecting diversity and practicing Christian love, and living the golden rule in service to others. Cunningham was one of only two athletes from all of UD chosen for this award.

The 20-year-old Clayton Ridge graduate is studying criminal justice and plans to add sociology as a second major before graduating from UD in May of 2018. He started wrestling at age five with the Little Eagles Wrestling Club.

“From there, Coach Rob Andersen became a large influence on me and I stuck with wrestling,” said JT. He was recruited by Simpson College and the University of Dubuque for wrestling. “I chose UD because they had my major with great professors. Also I liked the coaches, Jon McGovern and Mike Mena.” 

“Wrestling impacts my academics because it teaches me to be self reliant,” Cunningham explained. UD wrestlers must attend weekly study tables or keep their grade point averages at 3.0 or higher. 

Cunningham also credits wrestling with teaching him to set long and short term personal goals. “Wrestling impacts my character because, just like life, there will be ups and downs. If you work harder than everyone else you will see progress,” he told The Press. 

“I’d like to thank my family for always being at every meet during high school and now, and thanks to Megan, my sister, for recording my matches throughout high school,” said Cunningham. “I want to thank Coach Andersen, Bart Burgin, Wes Baier and everyone who helped me through high school.”

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