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Illinois Wrestling: Isaiah Martinez named Dan Hodge Trophy Finalist

Illini redshirt freshman is up college wrestling's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy.

Sonny An of The Daily Illini

Illinois was suppose to have a wrestler -- Jesse Delgado -- in the running for the Dan Hodge Trophy this year.

But it's not Delgado, who was named a finalist for the Illini.

Redshirt freshman Isaiah Martinez was named one of four finalists for the award, considered the Heisman Trophy for amateur wrestling, on Wednesday. Martinez is 30-0 with 20 bonus point wins, including a NCAA Division I leading 10 technical falls.

Martinez won the 157-pound title at the Big Ten championships on Sunday. Martinez, the tournament's top-seeded wrestler, finished the championships 3-0 with a 12-5 victory over No. 2 Dylan Ness of Minnesota in the final. He was also named the conference's Freshman of the Year.

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With the win, Martinez earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, where he will be the No. 1 overall seed at 157 pounds. If Martinez does win a national championship, he will be the third Illini wrestler behind Matt Lackey (2003) and Eric Siebert (1998) to finish an undefeated season.

In addition to defeating Ness, Martinez has defeated Nebraska All-American James Green, Rutgers' All-American Anthony Perrotti and pinned Kent State's Ian Miller. His 1-0 victory over then-No. 4 and 2014 NCAA third-place Green is the only match this season with a margin of victory less than two points. Martinez also won the Midlands championship in December where he recorded one technical fall and two major decisions.

Illinois has never had a Hodge Trophy winner.

The other three finalists are three-time NCAA champion and four-time Big Ten champion senior Logan Stieber of Ohio State (24-0, 20 bonus-point wins) at 141 pounds, Nebraska's two-time All-American senior Robert Kokesh at 174 pounds (33-0, 19 BPW) and Oklahoma State's 2014, 157 pound NCAA champion Alex Dieringer, (26-0, 23 BPW) who has moved up to 165 pounds this season.

The award is named after three-time Oklahoma national champion (1955-57) Dan Hodge, who never allowed a takedown in his college career. He also pinned 36 of his 46 opponents. WIN magazine founder Mike Chapman created the award in 1995 and wrote the 2010 biography of Hodge, "Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story."

The official Hodge Trophy Voting Committee is comprised of former Hodge winners, retired college coaches from different regions of the country, representatives of national wrestling organizations and a panel of national wrestling media members. In addition, wrestling fans also cast a vote. Following, the NCAA finals on March 21 in St. Louis, Mo., a voting page will be placed on WIN's website. The composite winner of the fan vote will receive two official votes.

The winner will be announced the week following the March 19-21 national tournament.

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