Spencer Lee and Gable Steveson share Hodge Trophy honors

Blair Sanderson

Editor
Staff
Apr 8, 2003
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IOWA CITY, Iowa – For the second year in a row, University of Iowa national champion Spencer Lee has been awarded the WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy. The award is presented annually to the nation’s most dominant college wrestler.

For the just the second time in its 27-year history, the Hodge committee determined two wrestlers worthy of recognition. Minnesota heavyweight Gable Steveson is also being recognized as a 2021 Hodge Trophy winner. The only other time two trophies were awarded in the same season was 2001, when Cael Sanderson and Nick Ackerman were both recognized.

Last season’s winner Spencer Lee of Iowa and Gable Steveson of Minnesota wound up in a virtual tie, with Lee winning the Fan Vote (25,712 to Steveson’s 5,202 votes), but multiple members of the formal Hodge Trophy Voting Committee voting for co-winners with both Steveson and Lee having such similar Hodge Trophy voting criteria stats.

The Hodge Voting Committee is made up of all past winners of the award, several retired college coaches from each region of the country, and select national wrestling media.

"We have had fairly tight races before but nothing like this year,” said Mike Chapman, creator of the award back in 1995. “It’s an amazing year in so many respects. When you look at what COVID did, cutting the season at least in half and causing such chaos, it was a very difficult season for everyone.”

Lee won the 125-pound NCAA Championship on March 20. He outscored his five opponents at the national tournament, 59-8, capturing his third career NCAA title and leading Iowa to the team title for the first time since 2010.

Lee was 12-0 in 2021, scoring bonus points in 11 matches and recording five first-period falls. He outscored his 12 opponents, 141-15, and his 91.6 bonus-point percentage led the country.

Not one of Lee’s first eight matches went the seven-minute distance. He had five first-period falls and recorded three technical falls, including a 21-3 win by technical superiority in the finals of the Big Ten Championships. He did not allow a point in the NCAA finals, winning 7-0, the largest margin of victory of any of the 10 NCAA finals matches.

Lee finished the season riding a 35-match winning streak, outscoring his opponents 432-42 during the stretch.

The winner of the Hodge Trophy is determined by the Hodge Trophy Voting Committee, made up of past Hodge winners, a retired college coach from each region, and national media members. A fan vote winner receives five additional first-place votes. Primary criteria for the award are a wrestler’s record, number of pins, dominance and quality of competition. Past credentials, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart are used as secondary criteria in years where two finalists’ stats are nearly equal.

Lee is one of five multi-winners in the history of the award. He won the Hodge Trophy in 2020, earning 51 of a possible 56 first-place votes. He dominated the 125-pound weight class in 2020, posting an 18-0 record and outscoring his opponents 234-18. He scored bonus points in 17 of 18 wins last year, recording four first-period falls and nine technical falls.

Lee is one of three Hawkeyes to win the award since its inception in 1995. Mark Ironside was honored in 1998 and Brent Metcalf earned the award in 2008.
 

Blair Sanderson

Editor
Staff
Apr 8, 2003
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For the first time since 2001, there are co-winners of the WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS Wrestling.

Last season’s winner Spencer Lee of Iowa and Gable Steveson of Minnesota wound up in a virtual tie, with Lee winning the Fan Vote (25,712 to Steveson’s 5,202 votes), but multiple members of the formal Hodge Trophy Voting Committee voting for co-winners with both Steveson and Lee having such similar Hodge Trophy voting criteria stats.

The Hodge Voting Committee is made up of all past winners of the award, several retired college coaches from each region of the country, and select national wrestling media.

“We have had fairly tight races before but nothing like this year,” said Mike Chapman, creator of the award back in 1995. “It’s an amazing year in so many respects. When you look at what COVID did, cutting the season at least in half and causing such chaos, it was a very difficult season for everyone.”

And that was especially true for Lee, who was wrestling in the NCAA tournament with two torn ACLs. In winning the trophy for the second straight time, the Hawkeye junior posted a 12-0 record with five pins, three tech falls and four majors. Lee got bonus points in 91.7% of his matches. Only one wrestler, Brandon Courtney of Arizona State, managed to go the distance, and Lee defeated him in the NCAA finals, 7-0.

“It was a tough weekend for me,” he said. “I couldn’t defend myself in certain positions and got taken down a couple of times. I always felt I was a good scrambler but a couple of times I just got taken down (when the opponent gripped his leg) because I couldn’t move.”

He admitted that sometimes doubt creeps in when facing such a difficult path, but he wasn’t about to be deterred.

“I knew it was going to be hard but I’ve been through it before, and I was going to do it for my team. Even after hurting it in the Big Ten, I just thought about what was next, getting through it day by day. Just keep going.”

Coach Tom Brands led Iowa to its fourth team title during his 15 years at the helm, and was very proud of the manner in which his prize pupil overcame the obstacles he faced.

“This is a very important honor for our program, and Spencer has embodied what it stands for since day one,” said Brands. “His two Hodge Trophies reflect who he is. He’s been a ferocious competitor and a man of great character. He blew his ACL out in the final match of the Big Ten tournament and said he was wrestling in the NCAA, no matter what. There was never any self-pity, just total determination and defiance.

“Spencer earned his two Hodge Trophies with pure domination, character and guts,” said Brands. “And he’s a student of history. He knows who Dan Hodge is and it really means something for him to win it again. He’s our first two-time winner at Iowa.”

Lee is the third Hawkeye to win the trophy, following in the footsteps of Mark Ironside (1998), and Brent Metcalf (2008). And he and Steveson have great respect for each other.

“I’m absolutely proud to be sharing this award with Gable,” said Spencer. “I think he’s the best wrestler in the world. I think he’s going to be Olympic champion and then go on to be successful in whatever he chooses to do.”

For his part, the Minnesota star is proud to be sharing the award with the talented Hawkeye.

“It was a bit of a surprise when I got the news because Spencer Lee is such a great wrestler,” said Steveson. “But winning the Hodge Trophy is something I thought about all year. Winning the NCAA was first but then I wanted to win the Hodge, too. It was a childhood dream and now it’s crazy to see that it’s happened.”

Steveson is part of a tradition of great Gopher heavyweights, dating all the way back to Leonard Levy in 1941 and Verne Gagne in 1949. Other NCAA champions at the weight include Brock Lesnar, Tony Nelson, and Cole Konrad.

“This is such an amazing award and a great honor for Gable and for our program,” said Brandon Eggum, now in his fifth year as head coach, and 20th year overall with the staff. “We’re very excited about it. We knew it was going to be a tough race, with Spencer Lee, who is an outstanding champion too.”

“Gable is special,” said Eggum. “He’s very hard to wrestle because he is always on offense, always ready to change levels, and has a variety of moves from the feet. He does all the little things right in his training, with his nutrition and weight training and things like that.”

The ultra-talented heavyweight, who punctuated his finals victory over Mason Paris of Michigan with a standing back flip, was 17-0 this season with four pins, seven tech falls, and three majors, getting bonus points in 88.2 percent of his bouts. One pin came in just 13 seconds while another took 35 seconds. He gave up just one takedown all season.

His pure athletic skills had television commentators and fans speculating as to whether he would return for another season or move on to other opportunities, such as MMA, pro wrestling or even the NFL. But first up are the Olympic Trials in Texas.

“There are so many options but I’ll take things one at a time and just wait to see what happens,” he said quietly on March 27, when notified he had won the Dan Hodge Trophy. “I feel really good about things right now.”

Eggum said Steveson is a great team leader and has the respect of his teammates and coaches. He said the heavyweight champion has taken the time to talk to younger members of the team prior to matches to give them confidence.

With an athlete as large and talented as Steveson, it can be difficult to find good workout partners, but he has several in the Gopher room, including Tony Nelson, a two-time NCAA heavyweight champion who is still working for a spot on the Olympic team, and assistant coach Trevor Brandvold, a two-time All-American at 197.

The trophy is named for the late Dan Hodge, the undefeated three-time NCAA champion for the University of Oklahoma who was known for his aggressiveness and pinning prowess. Hodge, who graduated in 1957, never lost in college and was never taken down, pinning 36 of his 46 foes. He is also the only college wrestler to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, on April 1, 1957.

It is co-sponsored by WIN and Culture House, a company owned by Chapman that publishes books and posters, and is presented annually by ASICS.

Others receiving first-place votes were David Carr, Iowa State, with two votes, while Austin O’Connor of North Carolina and Aaron Brooks of Penn State had one each. Carr won the NCAA title at 157, while O’Connor is the champion at 149 and Brooks at 184. The other undefeated Hodge finalist was Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, who went 14-0 at 133.

Eggum is hopeful the award can create extra attention for a program that has enjoyed a strong base of support for years.

“The Dan Hodge Trophy will bring more positivity to our program, and is something that will spark even more interest,” he said. “It’s the greatest award in wresting and will cause people outside of the sport to realize this guy is special, and we should go see him wrestle.”

Minnesota is building a new wrestling facility and Eggum said he plans to have a special case near the front, showcasing the two Hodge trophies.

Gable is the fourth heavyweight to win the Hodge Trophy, joining Kerry McCoy of Penn State (1997), Stephen Neal of Cal State-Bakersfield (1999) and Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State (2005). The trophy is usually given at the team’s wrestling banquet in the spring and again at a football game during the fall, but both events are uncertain due to the pandemic restrictions.

Visit www.WIN-magazine.com for more information on the award and a list of past winners.
 

Chips28

HR MVP
Apr 15, 2014
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Yeah Gable misses out on the sportsmanship easily. Hard to knock his season, that heavyweight group at the top is very talented.
 

TarpHawk

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Mar 18, 2007
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Fair enough. I'm not a fan of subjective awards to begin with (who made them God?), but congrats to Spencer Lee. And kudos to him for graciously acknowledging Steveson, who's exceptionally talented despite being a pr*ck. I actually don't mind that Steveson shares it, because if there's going to be an award for best wrestler, make it about the best wrestler, not the best citizen. Lee & Steveson were by far the best wrestlers of 2021.
 

SPOONER

HR Legend
Gold Member
Jul 15, 2001
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As long as we find out Lee has never been arrested for sexual assault, this is a bad look.

Far be it from me to defend Steveson, but given that he wasn't so much as prosecuted, let alone found guilty, means there's really no grounds for the WIN people to hold it against him. They aren't in position to do their own, in depth investigation.
 

crablegs1

HR All-American
Feb 27, 2009
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The Hodge is now a joke from here forward. Gable is amazing, don’t think anyone on this site has sung his praises as much as me, but this is a terrible idea.

For one, it doesn’t even sound like it was a tie. It says “virtual tie”. So, one can read that Spencer won, but they thought it was close enough? What the heck is the point of the vote?

What a sham.
 

just_somebody

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Gold Member
Mar 1, 2006
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The Hodge is now a joke from here forward. Gable is amazing, don’t think anyone on this site has sung his praises as much as me, but this is a terrible idea.

For one, it doesn’t even sound like it was a tie. It says “virtual tie”. So, one can read that Spencer won, but they thought it was close enough? What the heck is the point of the vote?

What a sham.
I was curious if maybe it was the other way, and GS won, but they found Lee a deserving, close second.

I am not a fan of ties either, but these two were both quite deserving.

I considered making some comment about who ends up the Sanderson, and who the Ackerman of this years shared award, but given what Ackerman overcame, that seems uncouth
 

IRONBIRD

HR MVP
Dec 2, 2010
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25,000PLUS to less then 6k is what should STAND OUT to everyone! Almost 20,000 more Wrestling fans voted for LEE. That is almost 5 to 1 like Jim Morrison once sung.

Now take the so called committee. I do not know how many sit on this committee but lets just say it is 250. That same ratio would have LEE winning 200 votes to 50. Lets just say, for whatever stupid reason you can think of? The voting changed a great deal from the 25K votes casted. MAYBE the turd gets 100 votes?????

So BIG CONGRATS to the real winner Spencer Lee. Sorry to say a big GO SCREW YOURSELVES to the committee for diminishing this great award! I always knew there was a bias against IOWA but this is a joke and I will never look at this award the same again!!!!
 

crablegs1

HR All-American
Feb 27, 2009
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I was curious if maybe it was the other way, and GS won, but they found Lee a deserving, close second.

I am not a fan of ties either, but these two were both quite deserving.

I considered making some comment about who ends up the Sanderson, and who the Ackerman of this years shared award, but given what Ackerman overcame, that seems uncouth
It’s possible, but I’d be surprised given that the criteria clearly leaned towards Spencer.

Either way, the votes were not a tie. One wrestler won, and then someone decided that it was “close enough” and awarded co-winners. What a joke.
 
Mar 26, 2018
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Sharing the Hodge does not diminish the achievement. Focus on the big picture that Lee had one of the great season in Iowa history. Let's support him during his recovery. It must be weighing on him facing another rehab with both knees. NCAA and USA wrestling is a better place with Spencer Lee healthy. Hope it is next season but if he needs to RS and go in 2023 then we can wait on his third Hodge.
 

ChiPackHawk

HR MVP
Jan 10, 2018
1,609
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25,000PLUS to less then 6k is what should STAND OUT to everyone! Almost 20,000 more Wrestling fans voted for LEE. That is almost 5 to 1 like Jim Morrison once sung.

Now take the so called committee. I do not know how many sit on this committee but lets just say it is 250. That same ratio would have LEE winning 200 votes to 50. Lets just say, for whatever stupid reason you can think of? The voting changed a great deal from the 25K votes casted. MAYBE the turd gets 100 votes?????

So BIG CONGRATS to the real winner Spencer Lee. Sorry to say a big GO SCREW YOURSELVES to the committee for diminishing this great award! I always knew there was a bias against IOWA but this is a joke and I will never look at this award the same again!!!!
While in my less than educated view of how the Hodge is awarded, if you don't think outside factors in the final decision could have played a role, you have not been paying attention to the world. All of the criteria used could never be adequately explained to the general public and the last thing wanted was a bandwagon controversy to over shadow the award. Never the less, it was 1A and !A- in my mind.
 
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23 so far

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I was curious if maybe it was the other way, and GS won, but they found Lee a deserving, close second.

I am not a fan of ties either, but these two were both quite deserving.

I considered making some comment about who ends up the Sanderson, and who the Ackerman of this years shared award, but given what Ackerman overcame, that seems uncouth
Flip a coin if you have to FFS. Both are definitely deserving, and I don't think Gable is near the dickhead he used to be (he had nowhere to go but up, but still), but pick one guy and move on. IDK, I think it's stupid to share a "best player" award of any kind.
 
Nov 17, 2004
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Let me translate this for everyone: "Spencer won, but we wanted to get the award to Steveson because he will be a headline name in the WWE and the Hodge will get more exposure."

I don't know why this is surprising to anyone. The Hodge Committee has demonstrated in the past that they do not look to make the best decisions. This is why an NAIA wrestler won in 2004 because of his "dominant, undefeated season" and why Bael had to share the award with Nick Ackerman a double amputee. Again, what Ackerman did was exceptional, but they clearly made him share in the award with Bael for publicity.

Note I am not knocking Steveson who by all accounts would be a worthy choice for the award. Yet again we see who W.I.N. and the Hodge Committee really decided to reward: themselves. They should at least have the stones to admit why they really made it a "tie".
 

IRONBIRD

HR MVP
Dec 2, 2010
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Posted on another Thread, but here it is again

How wrestlers are selected for the award


Originally created to celebrate the pin in college wrestling, the Dan Hodge Trophy is based on seven criteria including record, number of pins, dominance, past credentials, quality of competition, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart. The trophy is based primarily on the results of a single season, but past accomplishments are considered as well, particularly in years where the competition is tighter.

So Record goes to the other guy just because he had more matches

Not sure on pins?

Dominance goes to LEE

Past Credentials goes to LEE

Quality of competitions can be argued

Sportsmanship/citizenship goes to LEE

Heart goes to LEE

So if the other guy wins ALL the other ones that are not CLEARLY LEE. It is 4-3. Add in the last sentence, and that too is clearly LEE. Plus 25K votes to under 6K!!!
 
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fufighters

HR MVP
Nov 13, 2009
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This is where media drive an opinion and make it gospel. If you repeat it enough times then a great many will repeat that same narrative wether true or not. I've seen this happen quite a few times a year over the last 40 years..parrots who hear a sportscaster say something and repeat it over and over.
 
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