NCAA Champion Gable Steveson has earned the greatest honor in college wrestling as the winner of the 2021 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy, presented by ASICS Wrestling. He shares the top individual award in the nation with Iowa’s Spencer Lee. It is just the second time in the 27-year history of the award that two wrestlers were recognized.
“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 completed his second straight unbeaten season with his first NCAA heavyweight title on Saturday, March 20 in St. Louis. His road to the title included a 16-6 major decision against fifth-seed Tony Cassioppi of Iowa in the semifinals and 8-4 decision in the finals against No. 2 Mason Parris of Michigan. Steveson tied Lee for the tournament lead with 24.5 team points.
Steveson compiled a 17-0 season record with 14 of the 17 wins resulting in bonus points. He had three major decisions, four pins and seven technical falls and gave up just one takedown. Steveson recorded the second-fastest pin in school history with his 13-second fall against Michigan State’s Connor Bowes in January. He added a 34-second pin against No. 6 Luke Luffman of Illinois in February.
“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.”
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Steveson is a three-time All-American and the reigning two-time Big Ten Champion. He has a 67-2 career record and has not lost since the semifinals of the 2019 NCAA Championships. Steveson finished 2021 on a 34-match win streak and owns the 10th- and 14th-longest streaks in school history (34 & 30).
Now a two-time finalist for the Hodge Trophy, Steveson becomes the second Gopher to win the award. Four-time All-American Jayson Ness was the 2010 recipient after winning his first national title. He is the fourth heavyweight to earn the accolade, joining Kerry McCoy of Penn State (1997), Stephen Neal of Cal State-Bakersfield (1999) and Steve Mocco of Oklahoma State (2005).
Created by WIN founder Mike Chapman, the award is named after the late Dan Hodge, the legendary wrestler who was a three-time NCAA champion (1955-57) at the University of Oklahoma. Hodge was 46-0 with 36 pins and never allowed a takedown in his college career. He is still the only wrestler to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
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.
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.
Steveson will now head to Fort Worth, Texas for this weekend’s U.S. Olympic Trials. He will be joined by former Gophers Mitch McKee and Sean Russell.