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Penn State Wrestling

Penn State Wrestling: Who’s Most Deserving of This Year’s Hodge Trophy?

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Aaron Brooks

The Penn State wrestling season’s over, which means it’s now time to talk about the Hodge Trophy.

Penn State had four national champions in Kansas City on its way to winning the team title by a record 100 points.

All four of those champions— Levi Haines (157), Carter Starocci (174), Aaron Brooks (197) and Greg Kerkvliet (heavyweight) are among the five nominees for college wrestling’s most prestigious individual honor.

In case you needed more proof that Penn State’s really good at wrestling, there he is. The other nominee is Northern Iowa’s Parker Keckeisen, who won the national title at 184.

The NCAA breaks the Hodge Trophy down into seven criteria, per its website. Here’s a breakdown of each category, with the exception of sportsmanship/citizenship, since there’s no statistical way to measure that.

PENN STATE WRESTLING: RECORD

Here are the win-loss records for each nominee.

Haines: 23-0

Starocci: 17-2*

**both of Starocci’s losses were by injury default at the Big Ten Championships. He’s won the last 69 matches he’s actually wrestled in.

Keckeisen: 29-0

Brooks: 22-0 

Kerkvliet: 20-0

Based on this portion of the criteria, Keckeisen has the edge.

PENN STATE WRESTLING: NUMBER OF PINS

Haines: 5

Starocci: 3

Keckeisen: 2

Brooks: 6

Kerkvliet: 2

Based on this portion of the criteria, Brooks has a slight edge over Haines

PENN STATE WRESTLING: DOMINANCE

“Dominance” can probably best be determined by the amount of bonus point-wins the finalists had. A bonus point-win is any triumph by major decision, tech fall or pin. Here are those numbers, broken down by percentages.

Haines: 65.2%

Starocci: 64.7%

Keckeisen: 90.3%

Brooks: 90.9%

Kerkvliet: 70%

Statistically, Brooks has a slight edge over Keckeisen. But considering Keckeisen wrestled and won seven more matches than Brooks, I’d give him the overall edge in this category.

PAST CREDENTIALS

There are only two options for this one. Starocci and Brooks became the sixth and seventh wrestlers to win four national championships last weekend. The other three wrestlers, combined, have won three.

HEART

In this article’s lede, I mentioned there was no statistical way to measure sportsmanship/citizenship and that I wouldn’t be discussing that category for that reason.

There’s no statistical way to measure heart, either, but I’d have to guess Starocci wins this category because of his winning a national title on what very well could have been a torn ACL.

That’s superhuman stuff.

QUALITY OF COMPETITION (WINS OVER TOP 16 OPPONENTS)

Here’s how the candidates performed against top 16 competition.

Haines: 9-0, four bonus point wins

Starocci: 6-0, two bonus point wins

Keckeisen: 12-0, nine bonus point wins

Brooks: 9-0, seven bonus point wins

Kerkvliet: 11-0, five bonus point wins

Once again, Keckeisen and Brooks are the top two. Keckeisen has the slight edge because he wrestled more matches against top 16 competition and got more bonus point wins.

VERDICT

It should be clear to anybody reading based on the information above that Brooks and Keckeisen are far and away the top two candidates for this year’s Hodge Trophy.

This will be hard for many Penn State wrestling fans to hear but judging by the criteria, Keckeisen is the top guy. He wrestled and won more matches and picked up more bonus point wins than Brooks, with 12 tech falls compared to Brooks’ 11 and 14 major decisions compared to Brooks’ three.

Having said that, Brooks would be my winner for two reasons.

  1. He has the over Keckeisen in the “past credentials” category

  2. Brooks won his first three national titles in Keckeisen’s weight class and is 3-0 against him, with two of those wins coming at the NCAA Championships.

Keckeisen was incredible this season and deserving of a national title. With that said, does anybody think he would have beat Brooks had the two stayed at the same weight class?

History suggests he wouldn’t have.

So Brooks has my vote, but there’s plenty of evidence that supports Keckeisen as well.

Whatever happens, the Hodge will go to somebody worthy.

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