Zain Retherford has joined David Taylor and Kerry McCoy to become the third wrestler in Penn State history to win the Hodge Trophy.
Tuesday, WIN Magazine announced the two-time NCAA champion as the winner over Nittany Lion teammate Jason Nolf, Missouri’s J’Den Cox and Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder. Retherford was the runner-up last year behind Oklahoma State’s Alex Dieringer.
The Hodge Trophy, college wrestling’s equivalent to football’s Heisman, is named after Dan Hodge, who was a three-time NCAA champion for the University of Oklahoma — 1955, 1956, 1957. Hodge was dominant on the mat his entire career, as he didn’t allow a single takedown. He also pinned 36 of the 46 opponents he faced.
Retherford could be considered as the next-closest thing to that level of dominance on the mat — especially this past year.
Retherford was 28-0 this season, finishing off a second straight undefeated season. He is currently riding a 63-match win streak.
The Benton native scored bonus points in 25 of his 28 wins and collected bonus points in each of his NCAA championship matches. He had 17 pins this year — “an extremely important criteria. Part of the reason the award was created to elevate the importance of the pin, and to motivate top collegians to go for the fall,” according to WIN Magazine. He also added seven technical falls and one major decision.
Retherford captured the fan vote which gave him two first-place votes automatically. Other criteria accounted for in the award include record, dominance on the mat, quality of competition, past credentials, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart.
In the NCAA championships, the redshirt junior showed his dominance by having just six points scored against him. He technical falled his way to the 149-pound semifinals. In the semis, Retherford pinned Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen in 2:31 and went on to get a technical fall of Missouri’s Lavion Mayes in the finals, 18-2 in 6:40.
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson was a three-time Hodge Trophy winner — 2000, 2001 and 2002 — during his 159-0 collegiate career.
Retherford will look to become a two-time Hodge Trophy winner and a three-time NCAA champion next year in his senior season. If he were to win the Hodge Trophy next season, he would join Taylor, who is the lone Penn State wrestler to win the award twice.