Redshirt junior Zain Rutherford’s technical fall win over Missouri’s Lavion Mayes in the 149 lb. National Final secured his second-straight title, completed an undefeated season, and ran his winning streak to 63 matches. It also firmly demonstrated his candidacy for the Hodge Trophy — college wrestling’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.
On Tuesday morning, WIN Magazine announced that Retheford is the 2017 Hodge Trophy winner, beating out Missouri’s J’Den Cox, Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder, and teammate Jason Nolf. Retherford dominated the fan vote, racking up over 49% of votes and beating Cox, the second place finisher, by nearly 3,000 votes.
After his win over Mayes, Retherford was also named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Wrestler and the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler.
During his exceptional junior season, Retherford was 28-0 with 17 pins and seven technical falls. During the NCAA Championships, he rolled to a national title with ease via four technical falls and a pin.
The Hodge Trophy is named after Dan Hodge, one of the sport’s first superstars and an undefeated three-time national champion at Oklahoma who was never taken down during his career and pinned 36 of his 46 opponents. Every year, it is awarded specifically based on various weighted criteria such as record, number of pins, and sportsmanship.
Retheford is the third Nittany Lion to receive the award with the last being David Taylor in 2012 and 2014. Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson is the only three-time recipient, winning in 2000, 2001, and 2003 during his undefeated career at Iowa State.
With Retherford returning for his senior year, he has the opportunity to be the first two-time winner since Taylor and the first wrestler to go back to back since 2007.