Since 1995, the NCAA has given out the Dan Hodge Award to the nation’s top college wrestler. There have been 23 wrestlers who have received college wrestling's top honor, including four two-time winners and one three-time winner. In years past, Mizzou has seen two of its wrestlers become finalists for the award, J’Den Cox and Ben Askren.
Ben Askren became the first wrestler in Mizzou history to receive this honor. He not only won it during his junior year, he won it in back to back seasons, taking it his senior year as well. Throughout his Mizzou career, Askren went 153-8, going undefeated in his junior and senior seasons. He was a four time All-American and a two time NCAA Champ. Ben Askren is one of Mizzou’s most admired wrestlers to come through the program.
J’den Cox was the other wrestler to be in contention for the Hodge Award. During his four year career, Cox had a record of 136-5 and went undefeated his senior year. J’den Cox was a three-time NCAA Champ and a four-time All-American. He was a top nominee to receive the award during his 2017 season but lost to Penn State’s Zain Retherford, one of the two-time winners mentioned above. Cox continues to be one of Mizzou’s top wrestlers in program history.
For the first time in five years, Mizzou could have its next potential Hodge winner. Keegan O’Toole has been a “Bad Dude” since he stepped foot on campus at Mizzou and the nation is taking notice.
Watch: @MizzouWrestling coach Brian Smith summed up Big 12 champion @KeeganOtoole perfectly.— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) March 8, 2022
"He's a bad dude."
O'Toole's mindset headed into NCAA's: "Scared money doesn't make money." pic.twitter.com/DlUdrYqTfC
O’Toole, who technically qualifies as a freshman due to the extra COVID year of eligibility, has lost one match out of 40 in his early college career (39-1). His one loss came in his first year with the Tigers during 2021 NCAA Championships. He was defeated by Jake Wentzel of Pittsburgh in a quarterfinal match by a 9-6 decision. Since then, O’Toole has gone on to win 24 straight matches.
In just 40 matches over his Mizzou career, O’Toole’s numbers are incredible. This season alone, O’Toole has won 75% of his matches by a major decision or better. Here are his career numbers:
- Wins: 39
- Loss: 1
- Fall: 12
- Tech Fall: 7
- Major Decision: 9
- Decision: 11
- Take Downs: 129
- Escapes: 39
- 2pt Near Fall: 6
- 4pt Near Fall: 17
- Reversal: 13
- Riding Time: 16
- Point For: 428
- Points Against: 127
- Team Points: 179
The Dan Hodge Award is determined by a number of categories including record, number of pins/falls, and strength of competition among others. O’Toole has more than met the standard for this award, but he’s facing stiff competition. Gable Stevenson of Minnesota, Ryan Deakin of Northwestern, and Yianni Diakomihalis at Cornell are all considered top candidates.
In 27 years, there has never been a freshman take the honor. With a strong showing in the 2022 NCAA Championship, Mizzou’s O’Toole could see his name move up the list of finalists. Whether he walks out with the trophy this year or in the future, Keegan O’Toole has set himself up well for a chance to hoist the Hodge trophy for Mizzou.