Papanikolaou Wins Peter J. Cutino Award
Cal All-American center Nikolaos Papanikolaou has been named the 2021-22 winner of the prestigious Peter J. Cutino Award, given annually to the top male and female player in NCAA water polo.
The award caps off a brilliant junior year for Papanikolaou, who was also named the ACWPC National Player of the Year and led the Golden Bears to the 2021 NCAA championship.
The award was announced Saturday evening at the 23rd annual Peter J. Cutino Awards Night Dinner at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. Papanikolaou won the honor over fellow finalists Nic Porter of USC and UCLA's Nicolas Saveljic, who captured the award last season.
"It's a great honor for me to be the Cutino Award winner," Papanikolaou said. "I want to congratulate Nicolas Saveljic and Nic Porter for their nominations. They both were incredible this past season and it was really fun competing against them."
Papanikolaou becomes the fourth Cal player ever to win the Cutino Award, joining John Mann in 2006, Ivan Rackov in 2010 and Luca Cupido in 2017.
The award holds extra significance whenever a Cal player wins it because it is named after legendary Golden Bears head coach Pete Cutino, who led Cal to eight national titles during a 26-year career. Cutino is the program's all-time winningest coach with 519 victories.
"For all Old Blues, this award is very special," Cal head coach Kirk Everist said. "Pete made such an impact on so many lives and the sport we all love. Having a Bear honored in his name is a great honor and we are so happy for Papa and the team for achieving this award together."
Papanikolaou was arguably the most dominant force in the college game last season. He led the MPSF with 68 goals and 35 steals while registering a staggering 112 earned exclusions. Papanikolaou was also a finalist for the Cutino Award last season and has been named the MPSF Player of the Year in each of the past two seasons.
"Papa had an incredible season and this award is well-deserved," Everist said. "We are looking forward to the next couple years with him on our side."
Papanikolaou has two years of eligibility remaining and leads a strong nucleus of returners that will seek to repeat as NCAA champions in 2022.