By Michael T. Bello
Published Feb 14, 2017 at 7:00 AM ET; Updated Mar 2, 2017 at 6:20 PM ET

Hatfield, MA — The finalists for the 2017 Men’s College Squash Association’s Skillman Award have been released.

The Skillman Award is given annually to a senior men’s squash player who has demonstrated outstanding sportsmanship during his entire college career. This award is named for former Yale coach John Skillman, who led the Bulldogs to multiple national titles in over 40 years leading the team.

Players are evaluated based on their on-court poise and demeanor, skill level and ability in the game of squash, team play, contributions to intercollegiate squash, leadership, and cooperation with players, coaches, and tournament officials. The Executive Committee selects the winner at the National Team Championships.

The 2016 Skillman Award was presented to St. Lawrence’s Amr Khalifa.

This season there were seven nominees: Richard Bryenton (Vassar College), TJ Dembinski (Yale University), Wyatt French (Middlebury College), Ryosei Kobayashi (University of Rochester), Rishi Tandon (Columbia University), Michael Thompson (Drexel University), and Mario Yanez (University of Rochester). The Executive Committee had the challenging task of determining the three finalists.

Here are this year’s finalists (listed alphabetically; click on the athletes’ names below to see photos and videos of them playing):

Ryosei Kobayashi (University of Rochester): Upon arriving at Rochester, Ryosei Kobayashi made an impact. Over his four seasons, he has helped lead the Yellowjackets from a season-ending ranking of 7th in 2013-14 to a second-place finish as the national championship runners-up. The business major appeared in the Pool Trophy semifinals in 2015 and the final in 2016. Kobayashi, a two-time captain, has been named to the All-Liberty League team three times (2013-14, 2014-15, and 2015-16) and twice to the Liberty League All-Acadmic team (2014-15 and 2015-16). The CSA has named Kobayashi an All-American the past three seasons. According to Rochester head coach Martin Heath, “Ryo has provided strong leadership as a two-time captain, emphasizing discipline, focus and efficiency. It worked. Ryo is also a natural leader due to his confidence, academic ability, clutch performances, and easy going manner.”

Rishi Tandon (Columbia University): Rishi Tandon has been a mainstay in the top 3 of Columbia’s ladder for over half the varsity program’s existence. Columbia head coach Jacques Swanepoel explains that “We were a new team when he arrived and still developing our team culture. His positivity, selflessness, and easy going personality was exactly what we needed in a leader. We will miss him when he graduates, but we are incredibly grateful for his contributions to our team chemistry and on-court performance.” Twice elected captain of the Lions, Tandon has been named a Second Team All-American three times. In addition, he was a member of the 2015 – 2016 All-Ivy League squad. During his sophomore year, the engineering major helped Columbia improve from a season-ending ranking of 10th to 4th and earn the Barnaby Award for the most improved team.

Mario Yanez Tapia (University of Rochester): Throughout his time at Rochester, Yanez helped solidify the Yellowjackets as one of the top teams in men’s college squash. Yanez is “humble, outrageously athletic, stubborn in the most productive way, and fair to the point of self-sabotage. He exemplifies the best of college squash in terms of work ethic, performance, and humility,” states Rochester head coach Martin Heath. The business major is a three-time All-American, who made it to the semifinals of the Pool Trophy (men’s individual championship) last season and finished the year ranked 4th in the nation. Yanez earned All-Liberty League Team honors the past three seasons. Playing at the top of the Yellowjacket lineup for the majority of his career, he went 3-0 in last year’s Potter Cup, helping Rochester to their best finish, 2nd, in program history.