Hodge Talk: Updating The 2018 Race After Midlands And Scuffle

Richard Immel Zain Retherford

It’s now 2018, and we’ve seen all four major tournaments. The Hodge race is much more clear than it was last time we did an update.

While there were plenty of upsets at both the Midlands and the Southern Scuffle, none of the sport’s biggest guns misfired. We’ve come up with a top eight, and no weight classes have multiple entries.

Before we go any further, here once again are the criteria for wrestling’s version of the Heisman Trophy:

  1. Record
  2. Number of pins
  3. Dominance
  4. Past credentials
  5. Quality of competition
  6. Sportsmanship/citizenship
  7. Heart

A couple notes. Penn State's Mark Hall (15-0 with seven pins and five majors) and Lehigh's Darian Cruz (13-0 with two pins, two techs, and five majors) are not included, because of their All-Star Classic results. Whether it was an exhibition match or not, they were in singlets with refs and trying to win the match. Both are defending NCAA champions who have dominated this season and have plenty of time to work their way into the Hodge conversation. 

There is no one on this list from the 141-pound weight class, where no one is left undefeated, and 165, though PSU's Vincenzo Joseph (8-0 with one pin, three techs, and three majors) has a much better case now that he just won the Scuffle. Let's take a look at the stats for the eight guys, in weight class order.








Nick Suriano







Seth Gross


South Dakota St.





Zain Retherford


Penn State





Jason Nolf


Penn State





Zahid Valencia


Arizona State





Bo Nickal


Penn State





Kollin Moore


Ohio State





Kyle Snyder


Ohio State





On to the list, we’re going in reverse order here.

8) Nick Suriano, 125 (Rutgers): 14-0, 1 pin, 5 techs, 3 majors

Suriano survived his first major test of the year by winning Midlands and did so without having to wrestle Spencer Lee. At this point, the only way they could hit is potentially at Big Tens or NCAAs now that Lee's redshirt has been pulled

We put Suriano in because Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello has yet to wrestle this year, and the two will not meet on Jan. 7 in their teams' dual meet. Suriano is a long shot to be a finalist, as he doesn’t pin much and still also has to get through Minnesota's Ethan Lizak and Northwestern's Sebastian Rivera again. But Suriano is dominant enough right now to be on this list.

7) Kollin Moore, 197 (Ohio St.): 11-0, 2 pins, 1 tech, 4 majors

Although Suriano has a better bonus rate than Moore and a higher dominance score, Moore’s pin over No. 3 Jared Haught of Virginia Tech is better than anything Suriano has done this year. Additionally, Moore has a third-place finish from last year’s NCAAs that give him better past credentials, and he has fewer tests ahead of him on the schedule. Yes, we understand these things are outside of Suriano’s control. Neither will likely be a finalist based on how things are right now.

6) Zahid Valencia, 174 (Arizona St.): 15-0, 3 pins, 3 techs, 5 majors

You might be wondering how Zahid has fallen since the last time, when all he did was major his way through Midlands. Well, he has fewer pins than South Dakota State's Seth Gross, as well as a lower bonus rate and dominance score. Gross also has a higher finish from last year’s NCAAs. I still think Valencia's quality wins are and will be tremendously valuable, but the voters tend to turn a blind eye to such things. He has wins over the guys ranked Nos. 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 13.

5) Seth Gross, 133 (SDSU): 12-0, 5 pins, 5 techs, 1 major

The Midlands OW has not been seriously challenged all year, though Minnesota's Mitch McKee did make it a match there at the end. Gross has an easier road than Zahid to a title, and there is some folksy small-school charm that could influence the voting panel. Wrestling folks love the redemption story, the small-school kid, the Midwesterner who’s tough on top.

4) Kyle Snyder, 285 (Ohio St.): 3-0, 3 pins

OK, this is where it gets hard. If you put Zahid and/or Gross ahead of Snyder, I’m OK with it, as well as OK with either way you’d order Zahid and Gross. But Snyder is the best (freestyle) wrestler in the world and will be a finalist. So he goes fourth right now.

3) Bo Nickal, 184 (Penn St.): 14-0, 8 pins, 1 tech, 4 majors

Pretty much the same story as last time. Nickal is third on his team behind Jason Nolf and Zain Retherford in terms of pins. But he might just be the guy who gets the last match at NCAAs. It should be noted that Nickal's anticipated finals opponent, Myles Martin, is 16-0 with two pins, eight techs, and four majors. Nickal's fastest pin on the year is 26 seconds, which is the best so far on the Nittany Lions.

2) Zain Retherford, 149 (Penn St.): 14-0, 11 pins, 2 techs, 1 major

Time for the fun part! Let's calculate how much time Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf have spent on the mat so far this season. The reigning Hodge Trophy winner has had just one match go the distance, his Keystone Classic final against Ryan Deakin. In total, Retherford has spent 49 minutes and 44 seconds on the mat, which averages out to 3:33 per match.

As of now, he'll have four more matches in which he could hit ranked opponents, which is obviously subject to change.

1) Jason Nolf, 157 (Penn St.): 13-0, 12 pins, 1 tech

The Matrix continues to mow down all comers. His longest match this season is also his only non-pin, a 6:40 tech over Ian Brown of Lehigh in a dual meet on Dec. 3. All in all, he has been on the mat for just 40 minutes and 24 seconds, meaning his matches last just over a period — 3:06.

Also, Iowa's second ranked sophomore Michael Kemerer has a fair argument to be on this list. He is 13-0 with 6 pins, 4 techs and a major. Those are certainly dominant numbers, and he has more pins than Gross or Valencia in a similar number of matches. But for the time being, this list will only include one guy per weight until there are more losses from top ranked guys. If you are not considered the best in your own weight, you cannot be considered for the Hodge. Spoiler alert: if Kemerer continues this pace and takes out Nolf on February 10th, he'll jump to 1 or 2 on this list.

Where Are PWC Participants Going To College?


Year after year, the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic showcases the next wave of college wrestling superstars. In fact, six of this year's ten NCAA champions were Classic alumni. Below we break down which colleges the 2018 Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic participants will be attending in the fall.

Robert Kanniard Commits To Rutgers

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Teasdale Glory Conklin.jpg

I know we all still have an NCAA hangover, but don’t take your straps down just yet, the Pittsburg Wrestling Classic is this Sunday. Some of the matches lined up for this year’s PWC promise to be electric. One that I've had circled on the bout card since it came out is Pat Glory (USA) vs Gavin Teasdale (PA). Something tells me that this Who’s Number One rematch might look a little bit different than it did in the Snake Pit. 

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FRL 275 discusses the 2018 NCAA wrestling tournament, Penn State's title, and more.

Garbage Decision: EMU Dropping Wrestling


Eastern Michigan University press release

YPSILANTI, MI — Eastern Michigan University announced today that it will reduce its intercollegiate athletic program by four sports, effective at the end of the 2018 spring season. The action is being taken as part of the university's overall budget restructuring efforts. Affected by the decision are the sports of softball, men's swimming and diving, women's tennis, and wrestling. With the change, EMU, which previously led the MAC with 21 sports, will now have 17 sports (seven men's sports and 10 women's sports). This action in no way impacts Eastern's affiliation with the Mid-American Conference (MAC).

Hodge Trophy: Gross, Nickal, Retherford, & Valencia Announced As Finalists

Tony Rotundo.jpg Hodge Trophy Finalists 2018

The four finalists have been named for the 2018 Hodge Trophy: Zain Retherford of Penn State, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, Bo Nickal of Penn State, and Seth Gross of South Dakota State.

Ranking, Seed, & Finish: How Season Ended For NCAA All-Americans

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Another heart-pumping NCAA tournament is in the books after a long season of incredible moments. 

Who's In Line For Wisconsin Job?

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Four Events Live On FloWrestling This Weekend

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How do you follow up the NCAA Championships? With the NHSCA High School Nationals and Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, of course.

Bloodround Heartache

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Losses are always tough to take. The most gut-wrenching losses come Friday night at the NCAA tournament. Years of hard work have allowed wrestlers to make the final twelve at the NCAA tournament. In each weight class four guys have to swallow the pill of being one match away from earning All American honors. It's a loss that sticks with guys, and a lot of them use the loss to fuel future success.