The reigning 2020 Hodge Trophy winner, Iowa 125-pounder Spencer Lee, was named a finalist for that award once again in 2021.
The Hodge Trophy, which honors the namesake of legendary wrestler and college coach, Dan Hodge, is awarded each year to the nation’s best college wrestler. The trophy is presented at the end of the season by WIN. Magazine/Culture House. It is the wrestling equivalent to the Heisman Trophy The Hodge Trophy was created by Mike Chapman, founder of WIN magazine and Culture House.
— WIN Magazine (@WINWrestlingMag) March 23, 2021
The highly coveted award, which has been given out annually since 1995, has had four multiple-time winners. The first to do so was Cael Sanderson, who won the award three times, the second was Ben Askren, who won the award two times, the third was David Taylor, who won the award two times, and the fourth was Zain Retherford, who also won the award two times. Lee will the fourth honoree in the two-timer club should he be awarded the Hodge later this month.
The five other finalists for this years awards are: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State), Austin O’Connor (North Carolina), David Carr (Iowa State), Aaron Brooks (Penn State), and Gable Steveson (Minnesota).
All finalists are evaluated in accordance with the following seven criterion:
- Number of pins
- Dominance on the mat
- Past credentials
- Quality of competition
Although the winner will not be awarded until March 29th, it is hard to see a scenario in which Lee doesn’t defend his Hodge crown.
All the finalists are undefeated NCAA national champions at their respective weights in 2021.
Where Lee begins to separate himself from the rest of the field however, is criteria No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4. The Iowa Hawkeye has the most pins with five, just one ahead of Minnesota’s Steveson. With respect to dominance, Lee also possesses the highest bonus-point winning-rate of the finalists (91.7%). Again, Steveson isn’t far behind, winning 88.2% of his matches by the bonus-point variety. With respect to past credentials, Lee is far ahead. The former Franklin Regional prep is the only three-time NCAA champ and former Hodge winner among the six finalists. Lee also has a prestigious AAU Sullivan Award on his resume as well. The Sullivan, which Lee was a co-winner of in 2020, is awarded annually in April to “the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.”
In terms of criteria No. 4 the edge likely goes to Steveson (285) or Carr (157). An argument can be made that both the 285-pound and 157-pound weight classes (and others) had deeper, more talented fields this season than the 125-pound class.
Lastly, regarding the Sportsmanship and Heart criterion, all the finals check both boxes. That said, it will be hard to vote against Lee after he recently divulged that he wrestled the 2021 national tournament, and won a title, on a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Fans can cast their votes for the winner of the 2021 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy here. Results will be announced March, 29th.