Wisconsin inducts 2016 Hall of Fame class
MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2016 has amassed some impressive numbers: 14 All-America honors, 11 school and conference records and five national titles. The class, comprised of Bruce Driver, John Easker, Lee Evans, Tom Grantham, Rick Lawinger, Kari Maijala, Kirk Penney and Jeff Sauer, was officially inducted in a ceremony held at Union South on Friday, Sept. 16. The group will also be recognized at halftime of the Badgers' football game vs. Georgia State the following day at Camp Randall Stadium.
Driver is one of just 10 UW men's hockey players to be a part of two NCAA championship teams. A freshman on the 1981 national champions, Driver earned first-team All-America honors the following season as the Badgers again advanced to the NCAA title game. A team captain as a junior, Driver paired with Chris Chelios on the blue line and helped lead UW to its second title in three years. After turning pro, Driver played 15 seasons in the NHL, helping the New Jersey Devils win the 1995 Stanley Cup.
Easker's selection is a historic one as he becomes one half of the first husband and wife tandem to both be inducted into the UW Athletics Hall of Fame, joining his wife, Cathy Branta in the hall. The first four-time All-American in UW cross country history, Easker helped the Badgers to their first NCAA title, in 1982. He won the Big Ten individual cross country title the following season and was awarded the prestigious Big Ten Medal of Honor as a senior. On the track, Easker was a five-time Big Ten champion and three-time All-American.
Evans re-wrote the UW record book for receivers during his time in Madison. He set the Big Ten single-season record for receiving yards, a record that still stands, in 2001 (1,545). That year he earned first-team All-America honors and was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award. After suffering a knee injury in spring practice and missing the entire 2002 season, Evans earned second-team All-America laurels, hauling in a school-record 13 touchdown passes and 1,213 receiving yards. He holds the career school records for receiving yards (3,468) and receiving TDs (27).
Grantham, one of the founding fathers of the Crazylegs Classic, is this year's "special service" selection. Grantham and two friends, Ken Sparks and Rich Backus, hatched the idea for the Crazylegs Classic race in 1981 and received permission from then-athletic director Elroy Hirsch to use his name for the race. Grantham has served as the chairman of the Crazylegs Classic for all 35 years of the event's existence. In those 35 years, the race has attracted more than 300,000 participants and has raised nearly $3 million for Wisconsin Athletics.
Lawinger was the first Badger individual to win an NCAA wrestling title, earning the championship at 142 pounds in 1974. He won Big Ten individual titles as both a junior and senior, earning All-America honors both years. A member of the Wisconsin Wrestling Hall of Fame, Lawinger won a bronze medal at the 1973 World University Games.
Maijala led the Badgers women's soccer team to the 1991 NCAA title game as a senior, earning first-team All-America honors along the way. She still holds the UW career records for goals (47) and points (112). In addition to the 1991 title game, the Badgers played in the NCAA tournament in each of Maijala's four seasons, also advancing to the final four in 1988.
A first-team All-Big Ten selection as a junior and senior, Penney was the first UW men's basketball player to earn first-team honors in consecutive seasons since Ab Nicholas in 1951-52. As a freshman, Penney was a part of the Badgers' 2000 Final Four team. He then helped lead UW to Big Ten titles in 2002 and 2003, Wisconsin's first back-to-back conference championships since 1923-24. Penney finished his career with 1,454 career points, ranking 10th in school history, and made the third-most three-pointers in UW annals (217).
Sauer led the Badgers men's hockey team to two national titles (1983 and 1990) and his 489 victories are the most by a UW coach in any sport. In addition to the two NCAA titles, Sauer guided Wisconsin to two WCHA regular season titles and five playoff crowns. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and currently coaches the national hearing impaired team and the U.S. Sled Hockey Team, which has won the gold medal at every major international competition since 2011.