NEWTON, Iowa - According to the official University of Nebraska athletic website, Jordan Burroughs has developed something called "The H Factor" during his college wrestling career.
"... the H Factor - habits, hunger, humility, honesty and humor - could describe the incredible journey that Jordan Burroughs has taken from Sicklerville, New Jersey, to Lincoln, Nebraska..." wrote Huskers.com columnist Randy York.
Now, Burroughs can add one more H to that list: the Hodge Trophy!
In one of the tightest races in its 17-year existence, the Dan Hodge Trophy for 2011 has been awarded to the Cornhusker star who won the 165-pound NCAA title in Philadelphia.
The trophy was created in 1995 by Mike Chapman, the founder of WIN Magazine, in order to honor the season's outstanding collegiate wrestler. It has grown in popularity and acceptance to the point where it is often referred to as "the Heisman Trophy of wrestling."
Burroughs compiled a 36-0 record this season and captured his second NCAA crown (he won at 157 in 2009) with an 11-3 triumph in the finals over Tyler Caldwell of Oklahoma. The Nebraska senior won all four of his tournament matches by major decision and also received an injury default in the second round.
"The award is based on the entire season, and Jordan has been at the top of his game all year long," said Chapman. "He is superb in all aspects of wrestling: takedowns, the top position and underneath. He has one of the best power doubles I've ever seen in the sport and that takes in a span of 40 years."
With Nebraska facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Burroughs only had three matches this season that didn't end by pin, tech fall or a major decision. One of them was a 10-7 victory over Wisconsin's defending NCAA champion Andrew Howe at the Midlands. He also piled up more than two minutes of riding time over Howe.
At the time, Howe was riding a long winning streak and was considered by many to be the nation's best college wrestler. Burroughs' other two regular wins came against Caldwell, but he was able to improve greatly by the time of the NCAA finals, posting an eight-point victory over the tough Sooner.
Unprecedented Year with Five Legitimate Candidates
"It's unprecedented to have a year where there were five legitimate Hodge Trophy candidates. We're extremely excited about Burroughs winning the award because of who he is as a person and for how hard he works to dominate every opponent," said WIN Publisher Bryan Van Kley. "Burroughs has that 'X factor' which makes him stand out as the wrestler who's in a league of his own and his numbers this season back that up."
Jordan Oliver, a sophomore from Oklahoma State who finished 29-0 en route to the 133-pound title, finished as a close runner-up for the award on the strength of his 11 pins. Crowd-favorite Anthony Robles (36-0) of Arizona State finished third by a razor-thin margin after piling up an amazing 24 tech falls and beating last year's NCAA champ Matt McDonough of Iowa by six points in the NCAA finals.
Finishing in fourth place for this year's award was Jon Reader of Iowa State. The Michigan native was 39-0 while capturing the salty 174-pound title. The other finalist was Kellen Russell of Michigan who was 38-0 in the loaded 141-pound class, particularly in his Big Ten Conference.
The award is named in honor of Dan Hodge, who was undefeated during his three-year career at Oklahoma University. Hodge won three NCAA titles at 177 pounds and was voted the Outstanding Wrestler at the tournament in both 1956 and 1957. Hodge is the only wrestler ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (April 1, 1957).
The criteria considered for the trophy are the wrestler's record, number of pins, dominance on the mat, past credentials, quality of competition, sportsmanship and heart.
"We place a very high priority on pins, since that is what Dan Hodge was all about and what he stood for, but it doesn't trump all the other factors," said Chapman. "Frankly, this wasn't a great year for pinning so we looked hard at the other areas since the finalists' numbers were so comparable."
Oliver led the group with 11 pins, while Burroughs had six, Russell four, Reader three and Robles two.
This season, Burroughs faced a very tough obstacle to make it back to the top. He had won the NCAA 157-pound title as a junior in 2009 with a 35-0 record and was poised for a great senior year when he blew out his left knee. It looked like it could be the end of his career, and he was awarded a medical redshirt. He missed most of the 2010 season but was determined to build the knee back up and also moved up a weight class, to 165.
Known for his powerful double-leg takedowns and explosive attacks, Burroughs dominated his new weight class like few others have in recent years.
Burroughs: Hodge Trophy Was One of His Goals
"It's an amazing feeling to win this award," said Burroughs, from his parents' home in New Jersey. "Honestly, it was my goal going into the season to win a second national title and to win the Hodge Trophy. I wanted to dominate, and I knew that domination was a key factor in winning the award."
"This is an award that caps off his collegiate career, because it was one of his goals at the beginning of the year," said Mark Manning, Nebraska's head wrestling coach. "I was an assistant coach at Oklahoma for four years and met Dan Hodge several times. I have told Jordan stories about Hodge and how great he was.
"Winning the Hodge Trophy puts Jordan in an elite group of wrestlers and makes a strong statement about him as an athlete," Manning said. "He's been so important to our program over his career. He's a great listener and learns so fast. He is very aggressive and never wants to win by just one point."
After the severe knee injury, Jordan faced a very long and arduous rehabilitation process.
"In that year I rehabbed from the injury, I learned a lot about myself," he said. "I had to fight through complacency. I had to set my goals higher. I learned how important it is to do everything right, not just most things right and do them every day. Looking back, my injury turned out to be a blessing."
Burroughs plans to continue wrestling through 2016, he said.
Manning discovered Burroughs when he recruited Vince Jones, who grew up right next door to Burroughs in Sicklerville. They both attended Winslow Township High School and won state titles there. Jones, one year ahead of Burroughs, was recruited by Manning and wound up as an All-American at Nebraska. His first year at Nebraska, Jones told Manning about Burroughs and Manning went after him as well.
Several weeks ago, when it looked like another top contender was Penn State freshman phenom David Taylor, who was at 157 pounds, Burroughs sent the Nittany Lion star a message about the award.
"We're friends on Facebook," said Burroughs. "When I made the Junior World team two years ago, David was at the Training Center in Colorado at the same time I was and we got to know each other. Since he had so many pins and majors this season, I sent him a message and told him I was cutting down to 157 so we could wrestle off for the Hodge.
"I was just kidding, of course, and he took it in good humor," said Burroughs. "He said I was 'The Man.'"
The Hodge Trophy is co-sponsored by Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine (WIN) and Culture House, a company owned by Chapman that promotes and markets the sport of wrestling. The trophy will be presented to Burroughs at Nebraska's annual wrestling banquet on April 16 and at halftime of a football game this fall. Hodge will attend the banquet, coming from his home in Perry, Okla.
"I'm really looking forward to meeting Mr. Hodge," said Burroughs. "I have heard stories about him for years. He's a real hero in this sport."
Previous Dan Hodge Trophy winners:
1995 - T.J. Jaworsky, North Carolina
1996 - Les Gutches, Oregon State
1997 - Kerry McCoy, Penn State
1998 - Mark Ironside, Iowa
1999 - Stephen Neal, Cal State-Bakersfield
2000 - Cael Sanderson, Iowa State
2001 - Cael Sanderson, Iowa State, and Nick Ackerman, Simpson College
2002 - Cael Sanderson, Iowa State
2003 - Eric Larkin, Arizona State
2004 - Emmett Willson, Montana State-Northern
2005 - Steve Mocco, Oklahoma State
2006 - Ben Askren, Missouri
2007 - Ben Askren, Missouri
2008 - Brent Metcalf, Iowa
2009- Jake Herbert, Northwestern
2010 - Jayson Ness, Minnesota
2011 - Jordan Burroughs, Nebraska