Spencer Lee wins 2020 Dan Hodge Trophy

Updated: March 30, 2020

March 30, 2020

By Bryan Van Kley, WIN Magazine Publisher

NEWTON, Iowa — Iowa junior Spencer Lee has won the 2020 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS.

The 125-pound junior was 18-0 and the No. 1 seed heading into the 2020 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which were cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the season, Lee wrestled a combination of folkstyle and freestyle matches, winning both the Big Ten championship and the December U.S. Senior Nationals in freestyle, qualifying him for the Olympic Trials that would have taken place in early April.

“I’m very happy and excited and my team is excited,” said Lee of winning the Hodge. “I’m humbled to have won it.”

Known for his ability to turn opponents from the top position and quickly pile up points, the two-time national champion outscored opponents by a whopping 234-18 margin. Lee only gave up four offensive points all season. Fabian Gutierrez of UT-Chattanooga got a takedown against him in the first match of the year and No. 4 Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State got a late February takedown against the Hawkeye. Lee went on to major decision Gutierrez 16-5 and Piccininni 12-3.

Lee’s bonus-point percentage for the season was over 94 percent as only one opponent all year kept the three-time Pennsylvania state champ from bonus points. Michigan’s Jack Medley lost to Lee 8-1 in their Big Ten dual in Ann Arbor on February 8. Lee then dominated Medley with a 19-3 technical fall at the 3:23 mark at the Big Tens in early March.

Of Lee’s other 17 wins, he had four pins, all in the first period, nine technical falls, three major decisions and a forfeit.

“A lot of times dominant wrestlers play with their opponent like a cat plays with a mouse,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “Spencer is not that way. He’s a ferocious competitor. He wants to get off the mat in as efficient, quick and lopsided of way as possible. The thing that has made him better this year is he is willing to get outside his comfort zone, like finding openings off takedowns into turns to blow matches open.”

Similar to his domination on the mat, Lee dominated the voting as well. He got 52 of the 57 first-place votes from the Hodge Trophy Voting Committee, the most in the history of the award given to the most dominant college wrestler.

Ohio State senior Kollin Moore (197) finished second in the Hodge race with three first-place votes, Northwestern junior Ryan Deakin (157) and Stanford freshman Shane Griffith (165) each had one vote apiece. Deakin officially finished third ahead of Griffith with more points for second- and third-place votes from the Hodge Committee.

Each former winner of the Hodge is on the committee with multiple-year winners getting a vote for each award won.  There have been four multiple-time recipients of the award: Cael Sanderson, Ben Askren, David Taylor and Zain Retherford. In addition, the committee is made up of a retired college coach from each region of the country, national wrestling media members and the leader of each national wrestling organization. The final two official ballots come from the fan vote conducted on WIN’s website.


Lee also handily won the fan voting on WIN’s website. Of the 26,709 fan votes from March 23 to March 27, Lee got 58 percent of overall votes of the eight undefeated finalists with 15,567 votes. West Virginia sophomore Noah Adams finished second in the fan voting with 3,865 votes, Moore was third with 2,747 votes and Princeton sophomore Pat Glory had 1,503 votes.

The other finalists were Cornell senior Chas Tucker (133) and Minnesota sophomore Gable Steveson (285).

Three other wrestlers received non-first place votes from the committee: Penn State’s two-time champion Vincenzo Joseph (165), three-time finalist and 2017 champ Mark Hall (174) and Arizona State’s two-time champ Zahid Valencia (184).

Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands, who works with Lee closely, said Lee’s ability to honestly self evaluate and to continue to work to get better is what helps him dominate.

“He’s honest about his mentality and his matches,” Terry Brands said. “It makes him the best judge of himself. He’s very hard on himself in that realm. A lot of top wrestlers are that way. But, I’ve never met one like him to this degree. He’s always talking about something he can add to get himself more dominant and he wants to learn how to pin more.”

Primary criteria for the award include a wrestler’s record, number of pins, dominance, and quality of competition. Past credentials, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart are secondary criteria used when two finalists have similar stats.

The Hodge Trophy is named after legendary University of Oklahoma wrestler Dan Hodge. Still the only wrestler ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Hodge won three straight NCAA titles between 1955-1957. He was 46-0 in his three college seasons, pinned 36 opponents and was never taken down collegiately.

“When I came up with the idea of a ‘Heisman Trophy-type’ award for wrestling, the goal was to bring more attention to the sport and to reward the terrific young wrestlers who go all out to excel at the college level,” said Culture House’s Mike Chapman. “Spencer Lee stands tall in the fine tradition of those who have preceded him and is a superb addition to the list. He has brought a great deal of pride and excitement to the fabled Iowa program.”

Lee is the third University of Iowa wrestler to win the Hodge, joining Mark Ironside (1998) and Brent Metcalf (2008).

The Hodge is typically awarded at the respective team’s end-of-the-season wrestling banquet and then in front of the school’s the general sports community at a fall football game. Details will be announced in the future on when Lee will be presented the 2020 Hodge.

For more information on the Dan Hodge Trophy, go to WIN-magazine.com.

First-place Hodge votes:

  • Spencer Lee, 52
  • Kollin Moore, 3
  • Ryan Deakin, 1
  • Shane Griffith, 1


All-Time WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy Winners

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