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Ben Askren of Missouri wins Dan Hodge Award for second straight year



For the second time in the history of the Dan Hodge Trophy, an individual's name will be etched on the front of award for consecutive years. Missouri senior Ben Askren won his second straight NCAA title and was the landslide winner of wrestling's Heisman Trophy for the 2006-2007 season. The award is given out annually by the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute & Museum and W.I.N. Magazine.

Askren joins Iowa State coach Cael Sanderson as the only multiple-time winners of the Hodge Trophy. The four-time Cyclone champion won the award three straight years, 2000-2002.

"It's a great honor, especially (finishing ahead) of guys like Cole (Konrad) who is amazing. To be in the same company with Cael winning the top honor, it can't get any better than that. I'm very excited," Askren said while waiting with his team to go up on the NCAA platform to accept their third-place trophy. The quick-humored Wisconsin native deflected the credit after a self-described poor performance in the finals to his friend and fellow two-time champ Konrad.

"Even though Cole pinned in the finals?" Askren said when told he won this year's Dan Hodge Trophy. "Couldn't he get a little piece of the pie?"

Askren's legacy will certainly be left on college wrestling. Known as a free-spirited, unorthodox wrestler who loved to put on a show, Askren rolled up 29 opponents this year in his 42-0 season. The 29 falls gives Askren a pinning percentage of 69 percent for his senior campaign. In 2005-2006, Askren pinned 25 opponents in 45 matches for a 56 percent pinning percentage.

"He's a special kid and has so much passion for the sport," said Missouri coach Brian Smith with tears in his eyes, pausing to gather his thoughts about his three-year captain. "He's done so much for the sport of wrestling. People pay money to watch Ben wrestle. Our sport needs more kids who go out and lay it on the line and wrestle to pin people. Pinning and having fun is contagious and that's what he's brought to our program."

Askren, who finished his career with a 153-8 record, said he wants to be remembered as someone who "gave it his all in every match." The two-time Wisconsin state champ was somewhat forlorn after the finals because he felt like he failed to do that in his 8-2 decision over No. 2 Keith Gavin of Pittsburgh.

"Keith has a lot of nasty stuff from the front headlock. I knew I couldn't rush anything or I'd get myself in trouble. So, I tried to hold it and relax. That turned into wasting a lot of time," Askren said when assessing his finals performance. "I should have pushed it a little harder and given Keith a better chance to win. He deserved it."
Askren, who has a reputation of being highly critical of wrestlers for not being more aggressive, said that defensive wrestling is why the sport doesn't have more fans.

"I knew I could wait it out and win. And that's the thing I despise in wrestlers is waiting it out to win. That's why there's empty seats in The Palace."

Missouri's highest team finish in school history was respectable after Ben's brother Max, also a No. 1 seed at 197 pounds, lost his first two matches and was eliminated from the tournament. The Tigers finished 18 points behind champion Minnesota and 8.5 behind second-place Iowa State.

Ben is a geography major who will soon become a four-time Academic All-American as well and will leave Missouri with nearly every record imaginable: the school's first NCAA wrestling champion, most pins (91) and most wins (153). Askren's mark on the Wisconsin state record books was much the same, setting the state record for most takedowns in a season (401) and a career (1,100).

Askren now shifts gears and will focus on competing for the 163-pound spot on the 2007 U.S. World Team. The first qualifying event is the U.S. Nationals, April 7-8, Las Vegas, Nev. Askren has often gone on the record saying his ultimate goal is to win an Olympic gold medal.

The Dan Hodge Trophy was started in 1994 by W.I.N. Magazine founder Mike Chapman. The award is named after three-time NCAA champion Dan Hodge, who wrestled for the University of Oklahoma. Unbeaten in 46 matches, Hodge recorded 36 falls and was never taken down in college.
The criteria for the Dan Hodge Trophy are record, number of pins, dominance, past credentials, quality of competition, sportsmanship/citizenship and heart.

Askren will be given the award at the team's wrestling banquet and will most likely be presented the trophy publicly at a Missouri football game next fall.

The other finalists were NCAA champs Cole Konrad of Minnesota, 35-0, 13 pins, 37 percent pinning percentage, Northwestern's Jake Herbert, 32-0, 8 pins, 25 percent and Cal Davis' Derek Moore, 24-0, 5 pins, 21 percent.

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