NEWTON, Iowa — After injuring his neck in the 2021 World Team Trials, Michigan’s Mason Parris wrestled the entire 2021-22 college season battling through pain and loss of feeling in his left side.
Entering the 2022-23 season, the Wolverine senior — who finished second nationally in 2021 and fifth in 2022 — was finally healthy and recuperated from a long road of recovery. But Michigan head coach Sean Bormet still considered redshirting his star heavyweight.
Parris, meanwhile, felt confidently that this would be the year all his hard work would culminate in a national title.
Parris made Bormet make one promise, though: he would wrestle every single match without sitting out, even the season-opening Michigan State Open that some of the other Wolverine starters often would not attend.
Now, six months later after capturing an NCAA title in dominant fashion and compiling an unblemished 33-0 season record, Parris has officially been named the recipient of the 2023 WIN Magazine/Culture House Dan Hodge Trophy awarded to the nation’s top college wrestler.
Parris will be presented with the Hodge Trophy at the University of Michigan wrestling banquet on Sunday, April 2 in Ann Arbor. For more information on the Dan Hodge Trophy, including a list of all past winners along with the release story and stats from the year they won the Hodge, visit www.WIN-magazine.com.
The third straight heavyweight to win the Hodge — after Minnesota’s Gable Steveson won in 2021 and 2022 — Parris comfortably won the vote as he acquired 38 out of 64 first-place votes. The Hodge Trophy Voting Committee is a retired college coach from each region of the country, a representative from each of the national wrestling organizations, select national media members and past Hodge winners. Second-place Carter Starocci (Penn State, 174 pounds) received 14 first-place votes while four-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell, 149) received six first-place votes.
Parris accumulated the highest portion of the fan votes as well, which accounted for the final five first-place votes. The four-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist received 11,036 votes out of the total 36,225 fan votes that were cast online March 21-24. Starocci finished second in the fan vote with 6,172 while Andrew Alirez (Northern Colorado, 141) finished third with 5,617.
“This is an unreal feeling,” Parris said. “To even be nominated is such an honor. To win it is such a great way to represent my family and my school.”
Created in 1995 by Mike Chapman, the creator of WIN Magazine, and sponsored by ASICS, the Dan Hodge Trophy is awarded to the most dominant wrestler each year by WIN and Chapman’s company Culture House. It is named after Dan Hodge, the undefeated, three-time NCAA champion at 177 pounds for the University of Oklahoma, and the only wrestler to ever appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated (April 1, 1957).
“As the creator of the Dan Hodge Trophy, I am always delighted to see someone like Mason win,” Chapman said. “He is an excellent representative of the sport and the award and becomes the fifth heavyweight to win; moving alongside such greats as Kerry McCoy (Penn State, 1997), Stephen Neal (Cal State Bakersfield, 1999), Steve Mocco (Oklahoma State, 2005) and Gable Steveson (co-winner with Spencer Lee in 2021). In addition, Mason has made Michigan the 16th different school to have a Dan Hodge Trophy winner.”
Parris believes the future is bright for the heavyweight class.
“Heavyweights are a lot faster and more athletic than they used to be,” Parris said. “It is great to be on the forefront of that. It is awesome for the heavyweight division.”
Bormet was ecstatic to learn Parris had been named the first Hodge recipient in Michigan’s rich wrestling history.
“It is special,” said Bormet, who took the Michigan reins in 2018. “Mason was part of my first recruiting class at Michigan. That makes it a little more special. He has embodied the team mentality. It was great to see him be so dominant. I’ve watched Michigan as a university see a few football players win the Heisman and this is the equivalent. This is the most prestigious award in wrestling. What an accomplishment for Mason and our program.”
Criteria for the Hodge includes a wrestler’s record, dominance/bonus-point percentage, quality of competition and sportsmanship.
Parris was one of six NCAA champions who finished the season undefeated but had the most wins of all of them. He finished with the third-highest bonus-point percentage (63.6 percent) behind only Alirez (71.4 percent) and North Carolina’s Austin O’Connor (69.6 percent). Parris finished off the season with 11 pins, three technical falls and seven major-decision victories.
Other finalists for the Hodge were Princeton’s Pat Glory (125 pounds), Cornell’s Vito Arujau (133), Missouri’s Keegan O’Toole (165), Penn State’s Aaron Brooks (184), and Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi (197).
Impressively, Parris wrestled a total of 10 matches this season against the other seven All-Americans in the heavyweight bracket and scored two bonus-point victories in those bouts, both of which came at the NCAA Championships.
In an all-Big Ten quarterfinal, the Wolverine controlled eventual fifth-place finisher Lucas Davison (Northwestern), 10-1, before massively extending his margin of victory over Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi in the semis by scoring a 16-1 technical fall in 5:12, just one month after he beat the Hawkeye 9-7 in dual-meet competition.
Parris was also one point shy of majoring Air Force third-place finisher Wyatt Hendrickson, defeating the Falcon 12-5 during the regular season.
Parris and Bormet both wholeheartedly believe in the Wolverine program’s ability to peak in March when it matters most, and Parris’ dominance in Tulsa attests to that.
“Our coaches at Michigan do a great job of peaking us at the right time,” Parris stated. “My confidence was at its peak and my body felt great out there.”
“From a program standpoint, we want to do our best wrestling at the NCAAs in March,” Bormet added.
“If you look at the course of our season, he got tested a few times and went through some adversity, but he kept his composure. He did a great job staying focused on scoring the next point. All those little tests helped him keep building and feeding into his confidence.”
For Parris, the mentality to not just win but to dominate began with his father and continued by assimilating into the Michigan wrestling program’s philosophies.
“Dominance was engrained in me at a young age,” said Parris, the 23-year-old native of Lawrenceburg, Ind., and the son of Mark and Shay Parris. “My entire career, the goal has always been to score as many points as I can and to dominate my opponent. My dad always told me to dominate, take risks, and never stop scoring.”
Bormet echoed Parris’ unrelenting approach to the sport.
“It is a mindset we look for in recruiting but also that we coach here at Michigan. He was clearly a relentless competitor, and when he got into our program, he would overwhelm guys with his offense. We didn’t want to slow down his offense but just to make it more efficient. He also has a huge team mindset, so he always wants to score bonus for the team. He is an incredible leader.
“This is a really special honor, and it puts an exclamation point on his career as a student-athlete. He is also graduating from one of the top engineering programs in the country, so he is a special human all around.”