LAS VEGAS, Nev. --- The Mountain West Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award is the single highest honor bestowed by the league. For the sixth time in 16 years, a Lobo has earned the award. Samir Iftikhar, who just completed his eligibility for men’s tennis at The University of New Mexico, was named the Mountain West Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
He was joined in the league’s announcement by former Air Force cross country and track & field runner Rebecca Esselstein. Iftikhar is the fourth male New Mexico student-athlete to win the Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, and sixth Lobo overall. He is the third UNM tennis player to earn the honor, following men’s winner Matthieu Amgwerd in 1999-2000 and women’s winner Maja Kovacek in 2005-06.
The four honorees on the men’s side is the most among Mountain West schools, with Air Force and former member Utah next with three each. Overall, the six trails just Air Force, which has had seven honorees.
Established by the Mountain West Joint Council in 1999, the MW Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award is the highest honor presented to a student-athlete by the Conference. The award is bestowed annually to one male and one female who best exemplify the term “student-athlete” by achieving excellence in academics, athletics and community involvement over the course of their collegiate career. In addition to athletic achievement, recipients of the MW Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award must have a minimum 3.5 cumulative grade point average, demonstrate leadership, and exhibit good character and conduct on and off the playing field. Each honoree will receive a $2,500 postgraduate scholarship.
“We are all so proud of Sam for his hard work on and off the court. This is a perfect end to a great career,” said Bart Scott, UNM’s head men’s tennis coach. “To be able to get his MBA and his undergrad in four years is an outstanding achievement. His hard work is an example for his teammates and future Lobos. If you invest your time the way Sam did the sky is the limit at UNM!”
Iftikhar, who earned his Master of Business Administration degree this past May, is a four-time Mountain West Scholar-Athlete and was a Capital One Academic All-District® at-large team member in 2015. The native of Surrey, United Kingdom was named to New Mexico’s Dean’s List and received Academic All-Mountain West honors each of his four years. He graduated with a 3.97 undergraduate cumulative grade point average as a philosophy major in 2014 and recorded a 3.98 in his one year of graduate school. Iftikhar was a three-time All-Mountain West honoree in tennis (2013-15) and led the Lobos to the 2015 Mountain West men’s tennis regular season championship.
He finished his collegiate career with an 81-45 singles record, tying for eighth on the UNM career singles wins list, and his highest rank among NCAA Division I singles players was No. 33. Iftikhar, the Lobos’ 2014-15 team captain, qualified for the NCAA Individual Championships in 2015 in Waco, Texas. In addition to his academic and athletic commitments, Iftikhar was involved in teaching and coaching tennis clinics for local schools at the Lobo Tennis Club and was a speaker to the UNM freshmen in University 101 classes.
|1999-00||Matthieu Amgwerd (tennis), New Mexico||Katarina Malec (tennis), UNLV|
|2000-01||John Greer (football), UNLV||Liz Toman (track & field), Colorado State|
|2001-02||Teren Jameson (cross country/track & field), Utah||Shannon Bowles (gymnastics), Utah|
|2002-03||John Dayton (swimming), Air Force||Theresa Kulikowski (gymnastics), Utah|
|2003-04||Sean Murray (baseball), New Mexico||Delavane Diaz (volleyball), Air Force|
|2004-05||Morgan Scalley (football), Utah||Lindsey Metcalf (volleyball/track & field), BYU|
|2005-06||Matt Karmondy (swimming), Air Force||Maja Kovacek (tennis), New Mexico|
|2006-07||Lars Loseth (skiing/soccer), New Mexico||Blair Leake (swimming), Air Force|
|2007-08||Joe Brown (track and field), TCU||April Thomas (cross country/track & field), Colorado State|
|2008-09||Kellen Fowler (football), BYU||Abigail Rogers (gymnastics), Air Force|
|2009-10||Zane Beadles (football), Utah||Simone Riford (rifle), TCU|
|2010-11||Eric Robinson (swimming), Air Force||Therese Koelbaek (golf), UNLV|
|2011-12||Greg Miller (cross country/track & field), Wyoming||Kelly Williamson (volleyball), New Mexico|
|2012-13||Luke Ruff (football), Wyoming||Chaundra Sewell (basketball), Wyoming|
|2013-14||Christian Meyer (cross country/track & field), Colorado State||Darcie Anderson (swimming), San José State|
|2014-15||Samir Iftikhar (tennis), New Mexico||Rebecca Esselstein (cross country/track & field), Air Force|