By Mike Finn
Not everything has always gone well for Jordan Rogers, when it comes to wrestling.
The senior from Mead High School in Spokane, Wash., still remembers the first day he was introduced to the sport when he was four years old.
“I remember I went into the practice room and some kid took me down,” recalled Rogers. “I didn’t like it and quit after my first practice. But I came out of retirement the next year and started to like practice.
“I guess this is part of my comeback now.”
And what a period of time it’s been for Rogers, who was the first member of his family to wrestle — “I’ve been the best dummy when it comes to wrestling,” he said.
And by virtue of winning three Washington state championships, a Cadet National title in 2010, when he first started competing in many international matches, and most recently winning both the Dapper Dan and Dream Team Classic, the 182-pounder has been named the winner of the Junior Dan Hodge Trophy.
The award is named after the legendary wrestler from Oklahoma and presented annually by WIN Magazine and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
“Jordan is your textbook example of a student-athlete. It’s obvious what he’s learned in wrestling has carried over into the classroom,” said Bob Johnson, the AAU’s National Chairman for Wrestling.
“Jordan epitomizes what we’d ideally like to see every year in a Junior Dan Hodge Trophy winner,” said WIN Publisher Bryan Van Kley. “He goes out every match to dominate and pin his opponent. And he’s as disciplined in the classroom as he is on the mat, and also just a great representative of our sport as person. We’re proud he’s this year’s winner.”
On the mat, Rogers pinned all 42 opponents this season, all but one in the first period. At state, the nation’s top-ranked wrestler was on the mat for a combined 4:15 in four bouts.
Meanwhile, off the mat, the future Oklahoma State Cowboy owns a perfect 4.0 grade point average and is heavily involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
“It’s an honor to receive an award that highlights what you do on the mat and off the mat and the person you are off the mat as well,” said Rogers, who gets up nearly every morning at 4:30 with his younger brother Chandler for Bible study and training. The younger Rogers won his second state title as a 160-pound sophomore for Mead High School and also earned a Cadet National title last summer.
“It was also a good time that I could do some brotherly bonding so we’d also go down to the gym for a workout. We spend a little time with Scripture as well,” said Jordan, who wants his brother to do something that he could not: win four state championships.
Jordan missed out on that chance his sophomore year when he was out for the high school post-season because of appendicitis.
But even Jordan was able to make something out of that misfortune, when he won in the FILA Cadets after the high school season. This was prior to winning a Cadet National championship in both Greco and freestyle in 2010. He soon found himself winning a tournament for the U.S. in Mexico and eventually had a chance to compete in the Youth Olympics in Singapore later that summer.
“I didn’t think much about it at first because they didn’t do a lot of coverage in the U.S. about it,” said Rogers, who won a silver medal at the event where he spent 18 days before returning to school his junior year. “It was the first one they had ever done and I was amazed.”
Rogers’ “winning streak” came to an end in last summer’s Junior Nationals, where he finished second in freestyle and third in Greco-Roman.
But he returned with such energy that he was rated the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 182 pounds.
Rogers will now prepare for a college career at Oklahoma State, where he hopes to perfect John Smith’s low single after building a reputation as an upper-body thrower in high school.
“I told (Coach Smith) I wanted to become more versatile on my feet and develop some low-level attacks on my feet,” said Rogers, adding he chose OSU within five minutes of watching the Cowboys work out on his official visit last fall. “For me to learn from Coach Smith, it will make it tougher for opponents.”
Rogers said he likes Smith’s candid approach to wrestlers.
“His demeanor reminded me of my high school coach now, laid back and would tell you what you need to hear,” said Rogers, whose Mead High coach is Phil McLean. “When I was in his office, he said, ‘We’re going to fill out those chicken legs of yours.’
“He told me what I needed to hear.”