Jake Herbert wins 2009 Hodge Trophy
After turning in a near-perfect season of wrestling, Jake Herbert of Northwestern has been named the winner of the 2009 Dan Hodge Trophy.
On March 21 in St. Louis, Mo., Herbert defeated the defending NCAA champion, Mike Pucillo of Ohio State, to claim his second title at 184 pounds. Herbert finished the season 34-0 and did not surrender a takedown all year. Along the way, he scored 15 pins, four technical falls and nine major decisions.
Herbert is the 15th winner of the trophy, dating back to 1995. It is presented each year to the college wrestler who best represents the dominating style of Dan Hodge, who was an undefeated, three-time NCAA champion for the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s. Hodge is considered one of the three or four greatest pinners of all time, pinning 36 of 46 foes during his career, and 15 of 16 his final season, 1957.
“We have several criteria, including winning the national title and domination on the mat,” said Mike Chapman, creator of the award. “The Dan Hodge trophy was designed to be wrestling’s counterpart of the Heisman Trophy in football, and to reward wrestlers who go all out to dominate the opponent, either by pin or tech falls and major decisions. Jake is a great example of that philosophy.”
“Two things really impress me about Jake. First, he really goes out every match to put a lot of points on the scoreboard or get a pin. That’s what most fans want to see,” said WIN publisher Bryan Van Kley. “And when you take into consideration that he’s doing that at 184, that’s impressive. He’s a very worthy recipient of the award.”
A native of Wexford, Pa., Herbert was a four-time All-American as a Wildcat. He finished third in the NCAA in 2005 and was second the next year, with a mark of 33-1. He was 32-0 as a junior, winning the NCAA title at 184. He then took an Olympic redshirt year to try out for the 2008 Olympic Team.
As a Wildcat, Herbert was an amazing 149-4, winning his last 66 matches in a row. His winning percentage of .973 is the highest in Northwestern history. He is second on the all-time Northwestern wins list behind Jack Griffin, who was 156-21-1 (percentage of .879).
“Jake has been the face of Northwestern wrestling for the last five years,” said Tim Cysewski, Northwestern coach. “He heads the list of guys that have made a mark on our program.
iley was a two-time NCAA champion back in the 1930s, and won a silver medal in the 1932 Olympics. We’ll have to wait and see on the Olympics, but I think Jake’s better than Reilly was.”
Herbert was vacationing in California when informed of his selection as the Hodge winner for 2009.
“It makes me so happy to win this great award,” he said. “It’s a great way to cap off the season, and my career.”
Winning the Hodge Trophy was a goal he set for himself prior to his senior year. He approached Brent Metcalf, last year’s winner, and told him he wanted the Hodge Trophy this season. Herbert said that Metcalf told him to go for it.
Watching Metcalf lose in the 149-pound finals, Herbert knew he had to keep his focus for his finals match with Pucillo.
“I couldn’t believe Brent was losing,” he said. “I knew it was probably down to him and me for the Hodge.”
But Herbert didn’t feel any extra pressure himself at that point, he said.
“I felt like Mike (Pucillo) had more pressure on him, being the defending champion and his team still having a chance for the team title,” Herbert said. “I just had to focus and wrestle the best that I could.”
Cysewski, who was a Big Ten champ and All-American at Iowa, feels winning the Hodge Trophy will be a big plus for the Wildcat program.
“In the past, before the Hodge Trophy, wrestlers were focused on winning the Midlands, their conference and the NCAA,” he said. “Now, the Hodge Trophy is added to that list. It’s become a big deal, for sure.
“Jake winning the Hodge provides another sense that we’re doing the right things here at Northwestern. It’s important, and Jake knows