A lot has changed since the world emerged from the COVID-19 lockdowns, which was the last time we ranked the top athletes in UCF history.
In just three years, many legends cemented their status in their final few seasons, while others were born, and for a few athletes, their stories have been rediscovered.
With UCF getting ready for its first year as a member of the Big 12 (and Men’s Soccer for its first season in the Sun Belt), it’s once again time to count down the Top 100 Male and Female UCF Knights athletes of all time.
However, not everyone was able to make it on these lists. One of the criteria to be selected for this ranking is that only athletes from currently active UCF varsity sports could be selected. This meant that athletes from the UCF wrestling team, which operated from 1970-1986, or club teams, would not be eligible for this Top 100.
However, that does not mean that these former Knights are not worth honoring in some way. So, as we complete the Top 100 Male Athletes and get ready to move on to the Top 100 Female Athletes in UCF history, let us take a moment to honor those Knights that were not able to be selected for this list, but no doubt deserve their honors.
Johnny Rouse (Wrestling)
Johnny Rouse (1971-1972) is the only wrestler in the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame. Rouse finished second in the state his first year and third in his second year. He returned to UCF in 1973 as an assistant coach and stayed until 1976. He also served one year as head coach in 1982.
Rouse finished as the 2nd runner-up in the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials and then won the Regional Olympic Trials in 1976, but an injury prevented him from competing at the National Trials. He was inducted into the UCF Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.
Phil Dalhausser (Beach Volleyball)
The most successful UCF alum Olympian is Phil Dalhausser, who competed in the Summer Games four times in beach volleyball (2008,2012,2016, 2020), winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Dalhausser played club indoor volleyball during his time at UCF, graduating in 2002 with a business degree.
He went on to compete on the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour, where he won one championship in 2010 and was Most Outstanding Player four times (2010, 2013, 2014, 2017), amongst many other awards. He also won two medals at the FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships, a gold in 2007 and a bronze in 2009.
After finishing ninth in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Dalhausser retired from international beach volleyball and now competes on the domestic AVP Tour, where he has been MVP four times (2007-2009, 2017). Dalhausser has won on the Tour as recently as 2022, winning in Austin, Texas in May and Central Florida in December.
He will be inducted into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in October 2023.
Back in February 2020, Dalhausser spoke with the Banneret about trying to make the Summer Olympics at age 40.
Mattie Rogers (Weightlifting)
Even before graduating with a Sports and Exercise Science Degree from UCF in December 2020, Mattie Rogers was making noise in the weightlifting scene.
She became the first female American weightlifter to medal at the World Weightlifting Championship in 12 years when she earned a silver medal in the 69-kilogram weight class in Anaheim, California in 2017. She has since gone on to win silver medals in the 2019, 2021 and 2022 World Championships as well.
Rogers also holds the American female records in the 76 kg and the 81 kg weight classes
She has competed in eight Pan American Weightlifting Championships, winning two gold medals and five silver medals across four weight classes (69 kg, 71 kg, 76 kg, 81 kg). She has also won gold medals in five USA Weightlifting Championships (2015-2017, 2021-2022) across three weight classes (69 kg, 76 kg, 81 kg).
She made her Olympic debut in 2021 at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, though she had to compete in the 87 kg weight class (11 kg above her actual weight class at the time, 76 kg) in order to do so, making the Games her first international competition competing in the weight class. She still finished sixth out of 13 competitors, and one kilogram away from fifth-place.
Aric Almirola (NASCAR)
Aric Almirola has competed full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series since 2012. He currently drives the No. 10 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing. Originally from the Tampa area, Almirola attended UCF to work on his degree in mechanical engineering but left in 2004 to pursue his racing career.
Almirola has won three points races in the Cup Series, the 2014 Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, the 2018 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega and the 2021 Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 in New Hampshire. He’s also won two qualifying duel races in Daytona (2021, 2023) and the 2021 All-Star Open at Texas. Over his 16-year Cup career, as of this ranking, Almirola has amassed 28 Top 5 finishes and 92 Top 10 finishes.
He has also been to victory lane twice in the Craftsman Truck Series and four times in the Xfinity Series, most recently in June 2023 at Sonoma.
Retweet to congratulate Aric Almirola on his NASCAR Xfinity Series WIN at Sonoma Raceway! pic.twitter.com/OnXmgBZ7Ig— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) June 11, 2023
Kristen Thomas (Rugby)
Olympian Kristen Thomas got her start in rugby as a freshman at UCF, where she graduated with a Theater Studies degree in 2015.
She became an Olympian at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, helping Team USA to a sixth-place finish.
She made her debut for the United States women’s rugby sevens national team in 2015 at the Sau Paulo Women’s Sevens and would earn a silver medal with the team later that year in the Pan American Games.
She would debut with the U.S. women’s rugby national team in 2017 and get selected later that year to the team’s roster for the 2017 Rugby World Cup. It ended in a fourth-place finish for Team USA.
She would then return to the rugby sevens national team and become a team captain, leading the team into the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018 and 2022, both ending in fourth-place finishes for Team USA.
Most recently, Thomas competed with the Women’s Rugby Sevens national team in the 2022-23 World Rugby Women’s Sevens series, which also served as a qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympic competition with the top four teams earning berths. Team USA finished in third place, securing an Olympic berth for the third consecutive games.
Kyle Coon (Paratriathlon)
When he was seven years old, Kyle Coon lost his vision due to a rare form of eye cancer. He graduated from UCF with a degree in communications in 2013 and went on to become an endurance athlete, finishing in fifth place in the PTVI Paratriathlon in his first Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.
Since the Games, Coon has won four PTVI Paratriathlon races, including one at the 2022 USA Paratriathlon National Championships in July 2022, making him the 2022 National Champion of the PTVI class.