Certain years, it can be more of a formality with legends like Logan Stieber and Kyle Dake winning their 4th titles, there was no question which way the Hodge would go. In years past, it can be an incredibly controversial and highly debated award.
In 2008, a 1 loss Brent Metcalf won the award over an undefeated Keith Gavin. In 2010 some felt Jake Varner may have been a more deserving recipient than Jayson Ness.
Coming into this season I felt there were 3 frontrunners: Alex Dieringer, Nick Gwiazdowski and Isaiah Martinez. A few months in, and the race is as interesting as ever and we've had several different faces enter the conversation.
The Hodge Trophy has 7 criteria:
2. Number of pins
4. Past Credentials
5. Quality of Competition
We'll begin with the remaining undefeated wrestlers who couldn't break into the top 5 or honorable mention list. Most of these guys simply do not measure up in the bonus point department. For example, if Dean Heil bonused at a higher (like around 75%) rate. His 7 ranked wins and 6 top 10 wins (3 in the top 5) would likely put him right in the mix.
Undefeated:Dean Heil, Oklahoma State
16-0 1 Pin, 2 Techs, 1 major, Bonus Rate: 25%
7 Ranked Wins: #2 Joey McKenna, #3 Kevin Jack, #7 Tommy Thorn, #7 Tommy Thorn, #10 Mikey Racciato, #5 Matt Manley, #13 Bryce Meredith
Lavion Mayes, Missouri
19-0, 2 Pins, 6 Majors, Bonus Rate: 42%
4 Ranked Wins: #19 Anthony Collica, #16 Mike DePalma, #15 Jake Short, #17 Geo Martinez
Ian Miller, Kent State
15-0 1 Fall, 1 Tech, 5 majors
1 Ranked Wins: #18 John Boyle
Thomas Gantt, NC State
16-0 1 Fall, 3 Techs, 6 Majors
4 Ranked Wins: #8 Cody Pack, #18 John Boyle, #11 Chad Walsh, #14 Edwin Cooper
Bo Jordan, Ohio State
10-0, 4 Pins, 3 Techs
2 Ranked Wins: #4 Steven Rodrigues, #9 Daniel Lewis
Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin
17-0, 3 falls, 2 majors
4 Ranked Wins: #6 Chad Welch, #6 Chad Welch, #7 Austin Wilson, #19 George Pickett
Nathan Burak, Iowa
17-0, 2 Pins, 3 Techs, 5 Majors, Bonus Rate: 58%
3 Ranked Wins: #9 Aaron Studebaker, #9 Aaron Studebaker, #18 Michael Boykin
Ty Walz, Virginia Tech
17-0, 2 Pins, 1 Tech, 3 Majors, Bonus Rate: 35%
6 Ranked Wins: #4 Adam Coon, #17 Blaize Cabell, #16 Joe Stolfi, #9 Tanner Hall, #14 Ross Larson, #8 Mike Kroells
Adam Coon, Michigan
10-0 (All Star loss to Walz), 2 Pins, 3 Techs, 1 Major, Bonus Rate: 60%
2 Ranked Wins: #10 Amar Dhesi, #14 Ross Larson
Honorable Mention: These guys are on the cusp, but you’ll see that for lack of pins, elite wins or bonus rate, they don’t quite yet stack up with the top 5. However, a loss from one of the top 5 guys and a slight uptick in bonus points and elite wins could put one of these 6 guys squarely in the Hodge debate. At this point in the article you really begin to split hairs.
24-0, 7 Falls, 4 Techs, 5 Majors, Bonus Rate: 66%
8 Ranked Wins: #3 Cody Brewer, #5 Jordan Conaway, #18 Josh Martinez, #6 George DiCamillo, #19 Anthony Giraldo, #10 Eric Montoya, #17 Emilio Saavedra, #12 Zach Synon
Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State
13-0, 1 Pin, 3 Techs, 6 Majors, Bonus Rate: 76%
5 Ranked Wins: #3 Joey Dance, #10 Barlow McGhee, #11 Paul Petrov, #9 Tim Lambert
Thomas Gilman, Iowa
18-0. 6 Pins, 5 Techs, 3 Majors, Bonus Rate: 77%
4 Ranked Wins: #5 Eddie Klimara, #7 Ronnie Bresser, #13 Joshua Rodriguez, #9 Lambert
Morgan McIntosh, Penn State
21-0, 6 Pins, 3 Techs, 8 Majors, Bonus Rate: 80%
6 Ranked Wins: #9 Aaron Studebaker, #4 Brett Pfarr, #7 Jake Smith, #17 Shawn Scott, #10 Reuben Franklin, #12 Jared Haught
Zane Richards, Illinois
18-0, 5 Pins, 4 Techs, 4 majors, Bonus Rate: 72%
4 Ranked Wins: #4 Cory Clark, #5 Jordan Conaway, #8 Johnni DiJulius, #11 Rossi Bruno
Brandon Sorensen, Iowa
19-0 2 Pins, 3 Techs, 5 Majors, Bonus Rate: 52%
5 Ranked Wins: #3 Jason Tsirtsis, #5 Jake Sueflohn, #18 Griffin, #5 Jake Sueflohn
Now, at this point I believe you'll see separation from these 5 from the rest of the field. These are the best of the best.
5. Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State 16-0, 6 Pins, 3 Techs, 4 Majors, Bonus Rate: 81%
4 Ranked Wins: #9 Daniel Lewis, #12 Tanner Weatherman, #10 John Staudenmayer, #16 Ryan
The current #1 P4P wrestler in the country has been as dominant as ever. That said, as we compare seasons, you’ll see that his competition has not been on par with others (not his fault, but it still matters). Perhaps if he had been pinning/teching more guys it could off set the fact that he has only 4 ranked wins right now, none inside the top 8. There’s a lot of wrestling to be done, and what Ringer has on his side is criteria 4. His past credentials, along with Gwiazdowski give him a leg up. Of Dieringer’s ranked wins he won by bonus against 4 of the 5. The lone decision was against Daniel Lewis last week.
4. Gabe Dean, Cornell 27-0, 7 Pins, 6 Techs, 9 Majors, Bonus Rate: 81%
7 Ranked Wins: #4 Nate Brown, #6 Willie Miklus, #8 TJ Dudley, #11 Lorenzo Thomas, #15 Mathew Miller, #15 Mathew Miller, #12 Domenic Abounader
Scarily enough, Gabe Dean is wrestling as good as we’ve ever seen him. With an incredible record of 27-0 and a very high bonus rate (against outstanding competition), it’s possible Dean could go higher on this list. Of his 7 ranked wins, 4 of them were by bonus points. Dean majored Dudley, Thomas, MIller and Abounader. His match against NCAA Finalist Nate Brown was a lopsided 8-2 win as well. Dean can’t top Gwiaz and Dieringer in the credentials department, but apart from those two, he’s the most credentialed on this list. He’s a returning NCAA Champion and the last guy to beat Ed Ruth in college (Does that matter? Not sure).
I considered placing Gabe ahead of Gwiazdowski but Gwiaz’s pins, credentials and 4 top 10 wins lead me to put him up ahead.
3. Nick Gwiazdowski, NC State 21-0, 9 Pins, 3 Techs, 5 Majors, Bonus Rate: 80%
6 Ranked Wins: #5 Austin Marsden, #6 Denzel Dejournette, #7 Sam Stoll, #8 Michael Kroells,#9 Tanner Hall,
On one hand, Gwiaz is tied for the 2nd most falls with 9. Alongside Dieringer, he has perhaps the best credentials. You could even give him the nod over Dieringer considering the weights Nick has won, including unseating a 2 time NCAA Champion in Tony Nelson his Sophomore year. I believe that over his career, Gwiazdowski has more elite wins than Dieringer. How much that factors in, I am unsure. Another potential strike against Nick is that all his ranked wins but one (Stoll) were by decision. As you get a closer look, you’ll see that many in this top 5 bonus the majority of their ranked opponents.
I’ll also acknowledge that if the past credentials portion carries more weight that Dieringer and Gwiazdowski could very well fall at #2 and #1.
2. Zain Retherford, Penn State21-0, 9 Falls, 6 Techs, 4 majors Bonus Rate: 90%
5 Ranked Wins: #3 Jason Tsirtsis, #5 Jake Sueflohn, #6 Evan Henderson,#9 Matt Cimato, #18 Alex Griffin
Comparing Zain to the 3 behind him, he simply has been far more dominant against better competition. It’s not deniable. While he may only have 5 ranked wins. 4 of them are in the top 10 and guess how many of them he won by bonus? That’s right, all of them. Including over NCAA Champion Jason Tsirstis.
It has to be acknowledged that Zain can’t compare with Gabe, Gwiaz or Ringer. However in his career he’s lost to only Logan Stieber and Mitchell Port. That’s it. He’s also the last guy to beat Logan in his college career. If they’re going to bring in the scope of career accomplishments that has to be considered and Dean’s losses to Zilmer and Meeks should be considered. Gwiazdowski’s losses to Cooper, Johnson and Flores should be considered and Dieringer’s loss Vollrath should be considered as well.
My point being if you’re going to look at careers, you can’t just look at the good, you should consider their down matches as well. They paint just as clear of a picture. Zain has lost to a 4-time NCAA Champion and the 1-seed that year. That’s it. Otherwise you are very strongly skewing this award to go to upper-classmen when in reality it’s an award for that season more than anything (right?).
1. Jason Nolf, Penn State 23-0, 11 falls, 7 Techs, 3 Majors, Bonus Rate: 91%
7 Ranked Wins: #2 Isaiah Martinez, #5 Joe Smith, #3 Nick Brascetta, #9 Mitch Minotti, #11 Chad,Walsh, #16 Doug Welch, #20 Kamaal Shakur
At this point it’s not really that close, right? Granted, by default he cannot compare with the other guys in the past credentials department. Jason, it’s not your fault. So let’s look at the other criteria. Criteria 1 is a wash. They’re all undefeated. Criteria 2 he has the most falls and the greatest combination of falls and techs with 18. Criteria 3 he has the highest bonus rate with only two decisions on the year: A 4-1 win over then #3 and 2-time All American Nick Brascetta and a 7-3 win over #5 Joe Smith.
For criteria 5 he has the best singular win of the entire season. He won by fall over the returning undefeated NCAA Champion, Isaiah Martinez. Additionally, he tacks on another 6 ranked wins, 4 of which are in the top 10. In these 7 ranked wins he has won by bonus in 5 of them.
If we assume that at this point criteria’s 1, 6 and 7 are a wash and we concede that Nolf doesn’t have the superior credentials (by default, not by failure), you still cannot avoid the fact that he stands alone in 3 essential criteria.
I’m open to debate about 2-5, I think it could go a lot of different directions. However, as of January 27th, you can’t convince me that anyone else is more deserving of the Hodge Trophy than Jason Nolf.
Email/Tweet questions or comments: Christian.firstname.lastname@example.org or @CPyles8