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Photo: Alex Dieringer, who learned that he earned the 2016 Dan Hodge Trophy on March 28, was presented the coveted award by its namesake Dan Hodge at the Oklahoma State postseason banquet on April 22.
By WIN Staff
One of the finest wrestlers in Oklahoma State wrestling history has scored one of his biggest victories and he didn’t even have to step on the mat this time to do it.
Alex Dieringer, who won his third straight NCAA title on March 19 at the NCAA tournament in New York City’s Madison Square Garden, added the 2016 Dan Hodge Trophy to his impressive resume on March 28.
It is the 22nd annual award, given by WIN Magazine and Culture House and presented by ASICS. Many call it the Heisman Trophy of wrestling and is considered the top award in college wrestling.
The Cowboy 165-pounder was 33-0 this season with 12 pins, 7 technical falls and 8 major decisions, for a bonus-point winning percentage of 82 percent. He was 14-0 against ranked opponents this year and 27 of his 33 wins came with bonus points. In a battle of unbeaten wrestlers in the finals, he defeated Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan, 6-2, for his 82nd straight win, the third longest streak in OSU history. His final college record was 133-4, and he was 19-1 in the NCAA tournament.
“The award went to the right guy,” said OSU coach John Smith. “This has been his No. 1 goal all year. He is deserving of being recognized as the most dominating athlete in college wrestling. He has demonstrated a great deal of dominance throughout his career and has left a great legacy for a lot of future Cowboys to follow.”
Smith added that he considers Dieringer one of the top-five greatest Oklahoma State wrestlers of all time.
Dieringer garnered 27 of the 45 first-place votes to edge Penn State’s undefeated sophomore, Zain Retherford, who won the 149-pound title at the NCAA Championships, and had 14 first place votes. Heavyweight Kyle Snyder of Ohio State was third with three votes, followed by 133-pound champion Nahshon Garrett of Cornell, with one.
Retherford actually finished ahead of Dieringer in the on-line fan voting by a margin of 2,500 votes as nearly 150,000 votes were cast. The on-line votes counted as two votes in the overall total. The rest of the votes came from the Hodge Voting Committee made up of former coaches from different regions of the country, select members of the national media, a representative of each national wrestling organization and all former Dan Hodge Trophy winners.
“This is the best group of Hodge Trophy finalists we have ever had,” said WIN publisher Bryan Van Kley. “Alex won the award over a group of finalists who were all extremely dominant and who could have been worthy Hodge winners on any given year. Wrestling was blessed this year with several student-athletes who were looking to dominate every time they stepped on the mat.”
“This year’s race was as good as it gets,” said Mike Chapman, wrestling author and historian who created the award in 1995. “We had four unbeaten and outstanding wrestlers to pick from. Alex showed tremendous focus, courage and poise down the stretch and was able to withstand all the pressure that comes from being in the spotlight while going for a third national title and riding a long winning streak.”
When informed of the panel’s decision on March 27, Dieringer said he was delighted — and relieved. He said he had made winning the Hodge Trophy one of his top goals in college.
“I felt a lot of pressure near the end of the season,” said the native of Port Washington, Wisc. “Winning the first title and then the second was just fun, but as this season wore on, I felt the pressure. It was really heavy near the end. I never knew what pressure was until the last two weeks of the season. I was ready for it to be over.”
The trophy is named for legendary Oklahoma University wrestler Dan Hodge, who was undefeated in his college career while winning three straight NCAA titles at 177 pounds, the final one in 1957. Hodge was a dominating athlete who pinned over 75 percent of his foes in college. He is the only wrestler to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, and is also the only man to ever win national titles in both boxing and wrestling.
“Two of my main objectives in creating the award were to bring added attention to the sport with a trophy similar to the Heisman,” said Chapman, “and to also put more emphasis on the pin. I felt that with the advent of the tech fall that the pin was being somewhat neglected.”
There are seven criteria for the award: overall record, pins, dominance, quality of competition, past credentials, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart. It is a single season award but if the first four criteria are close, other factors may be considered.
“It’s been a big deal around here,” said Taylor Miller, assistant sports information director at OSU, after the winner was announced. “People are very excited. They know the Hodge Trophy is important.”
The Hodge Trophy is given annually by WIN Magazine and Culture House, a company that promotes the sport through books and posters, and is sponsored by ASICS. The award will be presented at the Oklahoma State banquet on April 21 in Stillwater, with Neil Duncan, CEO of ASICS, and Bryan Van Kley, publisher of WIN, in attendance.
Last year’s winner was Logan Stieber of Ohio State. Dieringer is the second Cowboy to win the award, as heavyweight Steve Mocco was the 2005 recipient. There are three multiple-year winners: Cael Sanderson of Iowa State won three, while Ben Askren of Missouri and David Taylor of Penn State each own two. n