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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | June 24, 2020

Dan Hodge Trophy: History, winners and how it works

5 legendary NCAA wrestlers

The Dan Hodge Trophy honors the top college wrestler every year. It was established in 1995 and is named after the legendary Dan Hodge, who was an NCAA champion, Olympic medalist, multiple-time NWA champion and ambassador for the sport of wrestling.

The award was established by longtime wrestling journalist and wrestling hall-of-famer Mike Chapman and presented by his WIN Magazine. The Hodge is equivalent to college football's Heisman Trophy and has been presented to 27 wrestlers in its 26-year history. Two wrestlers won the award in 2001, the only time in the award's history that the trophy has been presented to more than one athlete per year. 

Here's a look at the history and selection process for the award, along with a complete list of the winners. 

Dan Hodge Award history

The Hodge Trophy has a long history, but there are a few special facts about the trophy: 

  • T.J. Jaworsky, the first winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy, is the only University of North Carolina wrestler to win the Hodge. Jaworsky won his third NCAA title in 1995 and was voted the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the NCAA tournament that same year 
  • Only one athlete has won the Hodge Trophy three times: Cael Sanderson. The Iowa State graduate is also one of just three sophomores to have won the award and one of five juniors. He's also one of just four wrestlers to have won the award more than once. Of the other athletes who have won the award twice, Sanderson coached two of them: Zain Retherford and David Taylor. Retherford was also one of the five juniors to have won the award, while Taylor was one of the three sophomores to have taken home the Hodge. As the head coach of Penn State, Sanderson has coached a total of five Hodge Trophy winners in his first decade at State College. 
  • Nick Ackerman is the only DIII wrestler to win the Hodge Trophy. A senior from Simpson College, Ackerman is also the only wrestler to have won the award without having gone undefeated. Ackerman's accomplishments, however, don't end here. He's also the only double-amputee to have won the award. 
  • A Division I wrestler has won the Hodge Trophy every year except for two, 2001 and 2004. Ackerman won the award in 2001, and three years later, Emmett Willson of Montana State University-Northern became the first NAIA wrestler to win the award. Willson's resume included a 50-0 record the year he took home the Hodge. Twenty-four of Willson's 50 wins were pins; he also beat four Division I All-Americans during his award-winning season. 
  • The 2020 Hodge Trophy winner, Spencer Lee, is the only athlete who did not compete in the NCAA championship the same year he won the Hodge Trophy. The tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Lee's dominance during the season enabled him to capture the votes necessary to win the prestigious award. Lee won the NCAA title in 2018 and 2019 and will chase his third national title in 2021. 

HODGE WINNERS: Alex Dieringer | Zain RetherfordBo Nickal

Who was Dan Hodge?

A three-time NCAA champion for Oklahoma, Dan Hodge is known as one of the greatest athletes to ever compete in the sport. He built his reputation as a pinner, and the trophy named in his honor is intended to recognize the most dominant college wrestler, someone who wins with bonus points and puts opponents on their backs. Hodge didn't lose a single match in his three-year career as a college wrestler and won Outstanding Wrestling honors twice at the NCAA championships, once in 1956 and 1957. A National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee and Olympic silver medalist, Hodge is forever remembered and honored by wrestlers in the sport as they aspire to win the award named after the champ.

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Dan Hodge facts

  • Hodge finished his college career with a record of 46-0 and 36 pins and won every conference and NCAA tournament he entered as a Sooner. 
  • In all three of his NCAA finals appearances, he pinned his opponent; twice he pinned his way through the entire tournament
  • Dan Hodge never gave up a single takedown in his college wrestling career
  • Hodge enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school and served for several years before wrestling in college
  • After retiring from amateur wrestling, Hodge went on to have a successful career as a boxer and professional wrestler. He was a multiple-time champion in the NWA.
  • Dan Hodge's reputation and strength continues to make him a legendary icon. In 2009, at the age of 77, Hodge showed off his overwhelming physical power by crushing an apple with one hand. Yes, you read that right. Now, watch the video evidence. 

The Dan Hodge Award

Hodge

The Dan Hodge Trophy has changed shape and design over the last 27 years, but the current model includes a two-tiered pedestal block with four wrester carvings on each corner of the bottom tier. Each tier includes a placard with the top placard listing the name of the wrester and his respective school. Resting on top of the pedestal block is a golden cup with a long, straight handle and a golden wrestler sitting on top. 

How wrestlers are selected for the award

Originally created to celebrate the pin in college wrestling, the Dan Hodge Trophy is based on seven criteria including record, number of pins, dominance, past credentials, quality of competition, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart. The trophy is based primarily on the results of a single season, but past accomplishments are considered as well, particularly in years where the competition is tighter. 

The winner of the Hodge Trophy is determined based on a voting process that includes previous Hodge members, national media members, retired college coaches from each region of the United States and a representative of the national wrestling organizations in the country. Each voter is given one ballot containing the finalists, typically a group of approximately four undefeated wrestlers from the previous season, though the 2020 season included eight finalists. Fans also have a chance to vote for the Hodge winner, and the athlete with the most fan votes will receive two first-place votes in the count. Voting is typically conducted after the conclusion of the NCAA tournament, and the winner is announced in April. Schools traditionally honor the Hodge winner during a fall football game as well. The 2020 Hodge Trophy race included 57 votes, 52 of which went for Spencer Lee, elevating him as the clear winner of the annual trophy. 

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Dan Hodge Trophy winners

Of the 27 Dan Hodge winners, Spencer Lee, the most recent Dan Hodge Trophy recipient, is the first and only 125-pounder to ever win the award.

Four wrestlers have won the Dan Hodge Trophy at 165 pounds, the most popular weight class for Hodge winners. Of those four winners at 165 pounds, Penn State's David Taylor won the award twice.

The only weight class where an athlete has won a Hodge Trophy in the same weight as his coach is 197 pounds where Penn State's Bo Nickal took home the Trophy, as did his coach Cael Sanderson 16 years prior.

Three of college wrestling's four, four-time NCAA champions have won the award including Sanderson, Logan Stieber of Ohio State and Kyle Dake of Cornell. Stieber is the only Ohio State wrestler to have won the award. The year Dake won the Hodge and his fourth NCAA title, he beat David Taylor, who had won the Hodge the previous year and would go on to win the trophy the following year. 

Ohio State

Here is every winner of the award:

Year Name weight year School
2020 Spencer Lee 125 Junior Iowa
2019 Bo Nickal 197 Senior Penn State
2018 Zain Retherford 149 Senior Penn State
2017 Zain Retherford 149 Junior Penn State
2016 Alex Dieringer 165 Senior Oklahoma State
2015 Logan Stieber 141 Senior Ohio State
2014 David Taylor 165 Senior Penn State
2013 Kyle Dake 165 Senior Cornell 
2012 David Taylor 165 Sophomore Penn State
2011 Jordan Burroughs 165 Senior Nebraska
2010 Jayson Ness 133 Senior Minnesota
2009 Jake Herbert 184 Senior Northwestern
2008 Brent Metcalf 149 Sophomore Iowa
2007 Ben Askren 174 Senior Missouri
2006 Ben Askren 174 Junior Missouri
2005 Steve Mocco 285 Junior Oklahoma State
2004 Emmett Willson 197 Senior Mont. State-Northern
2003 Eric Larkin 149 Senior Arizona State
2002 Cael Sanderson 197 Senior Iowa State
2001 Cael Sanderson & Nick Ackerman 184, 174 Junior, Senior Iowa State, Simpson College
2000 Cael Sanderson 184 Sophomore Iowa State
1999 Stephen Neal 285 Senior CSU Bakersfield
1998 Mark Ironside 134 Senior Iowa
1997 Kerry McCoy 285 Senior Penn State
1996 Les Gutches 177 Senior Oregon State
1995 T.J. Jaworsky 134 Senior North Carolina

Colleges with the most Hodge winners

Dave Peterson/NCAA Photos Ackerman Nick Ackerman of Simpson College celebrates after winning the 174 lb. NCAA title in 2001. Ackerman won the Hodge Trophy this same year.

Only four schools have won more than one Hodge Trophy: Penn State, Iowa, Iowa State and Oklahoma State. All three of Iowa State's came from the accomplishments of Cael Sanderson. He's the only wrestler to have won more than two Hodge Trophies in a career, and he has more Hodge Trophies individually than all but one school, the school where he now coaches and has won eight NCAA team titles. 

SCHOOL NUMBER OF WINNERS WINNERS
Penn State 6 Bo Nickal, Zain Retherford (x2), David Taylor (x2), Kerry McCoy
Iowa 3 Spencer Lee, Brent Metcalf, Mark Ironside
Iowa State 3 Cael Sanderson (x3)
Oklahoma State 2 Alex Dieringer, Steve Mocco

 

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