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2022 Hodge Trophy: Which Of Penn State’s Canidates Has the Best Resume?

Nick Lee February 20, 2022 David Hague/NSN

Less than a week after the end of the 2021-22 Division I wrestling season, voting for the Hodge Trophy- the Heisman Trophy of wrestling- is underway and will close at six tonight. 

Penn State is fresh off five individual national championships and its ninth team championship in 11 years. Three of those national champions– Nick Lee, Roman Bravo-Young and Carter Starocci– are among the eight Hodge Trophy candidates

Bravo-Young (22-0) won his second individual championship at the 133-pound weight class, and he could win another should he decide to return to Penn State in 2022-23. 

At 141, Lee (22-0) is also a two-time champion and became Penn State’s first five-time All-American. The Hodge is the last thing left for Lee to win as a college wrestler.

The third and final finalist is Starocci (23-0), who won his second individual national title in as many years at the 174-pound weight class and did so while wrestling with a broken hand.

Penn State’s wrestling program hardly needs any added validation. Still, a Hodge Trophy would undoubtedly be welcomed hardware in State College. Here is how these three Lions stack up against one another using three of the seven credentials provided by the Hodge Trophy voting website. 

  1. Win-loss record
  2. Dominance/bonus point percentage 
  3. Quality of competition 

RECORD

Lee: 22-0
Bravo-Young: 22-0
Starocci: 23-0 (+1 point)

These are pretty even. None of Penn State’s three candidates lost a match this past season. Starocci has a slight edge simply because he wrestled 23 matches, and Lee and Bravo-Young “only” wrestled 22. 

PINS

Lee: 2
Bravo-Young: 4 (+1 point)
Starocci: 4 (+1 point)

Lee lags behind the other two here, with Bravo-Young and Starocci having double the pins that Lee picked up over this past season. Thus, Bravo-Young and Starocci pick up a point for pins while Lee stays stagnant. 

“DOMINANCE” (AKA BONUS POINT SCORING PERCENTAGE

Lee: 59%
Bravo-Young: 55%
Starocci: 61% (+1 point)

So this one will need some explaining. 

There are five ways (not including disqualification) to win a college wrestling match; decision, major decision, technical fall, pin and injury default. 

Winning by decision gets a wrestler’s team three points. A major decision comes when a wrestler beats his opponent by eight points or more and earns four points for the team, adding one bonus point. When a wrestler wins by tech fall, he wins by 15 or more points, which gives his team five points and two bonus points.

A pin is, of course, the most dominant way to win a match, and that generates six team points and three bonus points. 

Here, Starocci again picks up a point, with a slight edge over Lee. Of Starocci’s 23 wins, four came via pin, five via tech fall and four via major decision. 

QUALITY OF COMPETITION (NUMBER OF TOP 25 WINS

Lee: 12 (7 in top 10) (+1 point)
Bravo-Young 12 (7 in top 10) (+1 point)
Starocci: 9 (7 in top 10)

All three had seven wins over wrestlers ranked in the top ten. Lee and Bravo-Young had 12 wins over ranked opponents, while Starocci “only” had nine, thus slightly lagging. 

OVERALL RATING

None of Penn State’s three Hodge candidates is in the top three, according to WrestleStat. Based on rating, conferences matches, overall opponent strength and winning percentage, Minnesota’s celebrated heavyweight/potential future WWE star Gable Steveson is No. 1, Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin (157) is No. 2 and Cornell’s 149-pound, 28-0 stud Yianni Diakomihalis ranks third. 

Based on the criteria above, of the Nittany Lions’ candidates, Lee ranks the highest at fourth. Bravo-Young is close behind in sixth and Starocci is eighth. 

It seems unlikely that Penn State will win its seventh overall Hodge trophy. Because of his record (18-0 with an 83 percent bonus rate), rating (No. 1 according to WrestleStat) and name recognition from the fans who will be voting and the fact that he was last year’s co-winner, Steveson has a high probability of taking home the Hodge.

Regardless of how the vote plays out, however, Penn State’s program is a cut above every other in America, and more Hodge trophies should be on the way as long as Cael Sanderson is running the show. 

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