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The_Education

The Hodge is undeniably a popularity contest: A review

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As Cletus Tucker put it, "[T]he Hodge award is NOTHING more than a popularity contest." He is deeply, deeply correct, and the more I think about it, and the more I read his posts, the more deeply correct he seems.

 

Think about it. The Hodge is awarded by WIN Magazine and Culture House, which are businesses. The goal of any business is to make money. So awarding the Hodge to the most popular wrestler who they can give it to -- as long as said wrestler's season wasn't too bad -- makes sense.

 

But don't take it from me or Cletus. Take it from the facts.

 

(1) First, let's look at 2008. It was a down year. Some of the big guns who would emerge as absolute studs -- like Varner and Burroughs -- hadn't quite arrived. Gavin, an undefeated national champion, was the most dominant wrestler in the country. However, the Hodge was awarded to Metcalf, who was among the best wrestlers in the country, but who had been manhandled and pinned that year. The only explanation for giving the award to Metcalf over Gavin seems to be that he had many more fans than Gavin. I really can't think of any other reason to have given the Hodge to him instead of Gavin.

 

(2) Second, let's look at 2010. Ness won the Hodge over Varner. Ness had more pins than Varner and an identical undefeated record, but Ness barely got by a freshman Oliver (score was 1-0) and had to come from behind to beat Dennis. Varner, on the other hand, was a returning world team member, 4x finalist, 2x champ, and was never in danger of losing all year. And his weight class was tough. It included Brester, Simaz, Taylor, and others. I thought that Varner deserved the Hodge. I thought he had a more dominating season because he was never in danger of losing while Ness had been in danger of losing, and because his competition was somewhat tougher. But again, Ness was more popular, so he got the Hodge. Ness's fans mechanically say that he deserved the Hodge because he was undefeated like Varner but had more pins. Okay, fine, so let's see how that reasoning transfers to the next season.

 

(3) Third, 2011. I thought Burroughs deserved the Hodge despite having fewer pins than Oliver, who was also an undefeated national champion. As far as I know, nobody thought that Oliver should have gotten the Hodge over Burroughs. I think we all understood that Burroughs's mastery over a tougher weight class made him a worthy Hodge winner. So why was the logic reversed from the previous year? It has to be because Burroughs had more fans. This time, the more popular wrestler happened to be the best, but, as we saw, it doesn't always happen.

 

In conclusion, the Hodge is a popularity contest. I don't think it necessarily deserves to be mentioned as an "accomplishment."

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Another way you might make your argument is that instead of popularity trumping the most logical choice, sometimes economics will do the same thing instead. More specifically the choice of Ness for the 2010 Hodge award might have simply been based on the fact that Robinson's advertising bill from his camps brought in significant $$$ to WIN, which influenced their decision to choose Ness over the other choices. Not saying this was the case, but in the corporate world this goes on all the time. Just a thought and nothing else.

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Totally agree. How about the time the Divison 3 dude with no legs tied with Cael for the Hodge? Big ups to that guy, he has a lot of guts and it's a great story. But if the Hodge is for the best wrestler he wasn't remotely deserving.

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The OP is spot on. In the case of the D3 guy tying with Cael Sanderson, it was a feel good story that really went a long way to making WIN look good. They recognized the right guy, (Cael) and also got some much needed positive publicity for including the handy cap guy as well. We all know he didn't remotely deserve to be along side Cael, lets be realistic. Great PR move though and it paid off nicely.

 

The problem for the Hodge award though is that the word is out on their bias and a great many fans are no longer taking it serious. In fact there's another award now that basically it replaces it. Most dominant? Excellent, it serves them right.

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and Herbert was dominant in 2009, but did he have a better year than Caldwell?

 

2008-09

• Had one of the greatest seasons in NC State wrestling history, posting a 38-1 overall record and winning the national championship at 149 pounds, arguably the toughest in college wrestling in 2009

• Tied for the second most wins in a season by a Wolfpack wrestler, and had a 29-match winning streak that dated back to the final bout of the 2007-08 campaign, the fourth longest in NC State history

• Only loss was by injury default

• Had 17 pins, fourth best single-season mark in school history

• Went 10-1 vs. ranked opponents, including a perfect 7-0 with two pins against opponents ranked in the national top 10

and defeated defending Hodge Award winner in the NCAA finals.

 

 

Herbert:

 

Defeated 2008 national champion Mike Pucillo of Ohio State in NCAA final, 6-3 ... Second four-time All-American in Northwestern history ... Finished his career with the fifth-best four-year winning percentage (.972; 135-4) among all Division I wrestlers since the 1974-75 season ... Ended career on a 66-match winning streak and with a 21-2 record at the NCAA Championships ... Won 18 dual matches and all eight Big Ten duals ... Did not surrender a takedown in his senior season ... Won his third Big Ten title with an 8-1 decision over third-ranked Phil Keddy of Iowa in the final ... Led the team with 15 pins, nine major decisions and four tech falls ... 10 of his pins came in first period ... Began the year ranked second to Pucillo before moving ahead of him in the polls on Jan. 6 ... Defeated 11 wrestlers ranked in the top 20 of his weight class by the end of the year ... Became the first Northwestern wrestler to win three Midlands championships on Dec. 30 when he defeated Keddy in the final by major decision, 15-1 ... Unanimous selection for Dan Gable Outstanding Wrestler Award at 2008 Midlands

 

So how do you even make a distinction? Should have been a tie?

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(2) Second, let's look at 2010. Ness won the Hodge over Varner. Ness had more pins than Varner and an identical undefeated record, but Ness barely got by a freshman Oliver (score was 1-0) and had to come from behind to beat Dennis. Varner, on the other hand, was a returning world team member, 4x finalist, 2x champ, and was never in danger of losing all year. And his weight class was tough. It included Brester, Simaz, Taylor, and others. I thought that Varner deserved the Hodge. I thought he had a more dominating season because he was never in danger of losing while Ness had been in danger of losing, and because his competition was somewhat tougher. But again, Ness was more popular, so he got the Hodge. Ness's fans mechanically say that he deserved the Hodge because he was undefeated like Varner but had more pins. Okay, fine, so let's see how that reasoning transfers to the next season.

 

Hudson Taylor 5-4

Craig Brester 6-4 sv

 

So much for "never in danger of losing all year''. I agree that 197 was a tougher weight class, but the following says it all:

 

Ness 19 pins, second to Hudson Taylor's 24.

Varner 10 pins, tied for 38th.

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A re-visit of the Criteria for the award seems to be in order:

 

 

1. Record 31-0

2. Number of pins 10

3. Dominance hardly anyone scored against him, unless they were escape points. Varner also had numerous bonus point victories to go with his dominating style.

4. Past credentials 4 time Finalist, 4 time AA, 2 time National Champion, US open freestyle national champion, World team member

5. Quality of competition Brester's a 2 time national champion if Varner does not exist. Varner dominated the series between them, slipping up only once in 7 or 8 matches.

6. Sportsmanship/citizenship routinely was seen crossing elderly ladies across the street and passing out bibles in church to those who didn't have their own.

7. Heart

The heart of an Olympic Gold medalist

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