Tsirtsis tabbed InterMat Freshman of the Year

Jason Tsirtsis defeated Josh Kindig in the NCAA finals (Photo/John Sachs,

In a year where a number of freshmen made their presence known in their first official year of college competition, Northwestern's Jason Tsirtsis has been selected as the 2014 InterMat Freshman of the Year, the amateur wrestling website announced on Tuesday.

The award, presented each year since 2006 to the best college freshman in all divisions, is based on the balloting of writers and executives at

2014 InterMat Freshman of the Year
1st-5th-Place Votes: 9-7-5-3-1
Total Votes/(First-Place Votes)

1. Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern 76 (5)
2. J'den Cox, Missouri 70 (3)
3. Zain Retherford, Penn State 48
4. Gabe Dean, Cornell 31 (1)
5. Haley Augello, King 10 (1)
6. Adam Coon, Michigan 8
7. Joey Dance, Virginia Tech 3
T8. Cory Clark, Iowa 1
T8. Isaac Jordan, Wisconsin 1
T8. Riley Lefever, Wabash 1
T8. Mitch Minotti, Lehigh 1
Tsirtsis, crowned the 149-pound champ at the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, received five first-place votes -- exactly half of the total first-place votes -- for a total of 76 votes. In second place was 197-pound titlewinner J'den Cox of Missouri, who earned a total of 70 votes, including three first-place ballots. Penn State's Zain Retherford, who placed fifth at 141, came in third with 48 votes, despite not getting any first-place votes. Two other wrestlers each got one first-place vote: Cornell's Gabe Dean earned fourth place in the balloting with 31 votes ... while Haley Augello of King University's women's program received 10 votes to place fifth overall.

Not enough can be said about the level of talent within the 2014 freshman class. An immediate indicator: four freshmen earned at least one first-place vote in this year's InterMat balloting. (By contrast, only two wrestlers, Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer, and Cornell's Nahshon Garrett, garnered first-place ballots in 2013.) If that weren't not enough, consider that freshmen grabbed two of the 10 individual 2014 NCAA Division I titles ... earned 12 out of the 80 All-American honors ... and two rookies, Zain Retherford and Gabe Dean, each handed the only loss of the season to the otherwise perfect records of three-time NCAA champions Logan Stieber and Ed Ruth, respectively.

So what set Jason Tsirtsis apart from an incredibly talented cohort of freshmen?

A native of Crown Point, Ind., Tsirtsis compiled an overall record of 32-3 during the 2013-14 season. He entered the championship season by claiming the 2014 Big Ten conference title at 149 ... then was seeded fifth at the 2014 NCAAs. After earning first-day decisions over unseeded wrestlers Bryce Busler (Bloomsburg) and James English (Penn State), Tsirtsis topped No. 4 seed (and 2013 NCAA 141-pound champ) Kendric Maple of Oklahoma in the quarterfinals, then followed up by defeating top-seeded Drake Houdashelt of Missouri in the semifinals to advance to the finals. There Tsirtsis got a 3-1 win over Oklahoma State's Josh Kindig, becoming Northwestern's first NCAA champ since Jake Herbert won his second title at the 2009 NCAAs.

Freshman of the Year Winners

2014: Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern
2013: Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State
2012: Logan Stieber, Ohio State
2011: David Taylor, Penn State
2010: Kyle Dake, Cornell
2009: Andrew Howe, Wisconsin
2008: Mike Grey, Cornell
2007: Jake Varner, Iowa State
2006: Dustin Schlatter, Minnesota
"Jason Tsirtsis came into the season possessing all the ingredients needed to make a championship run as a freshman," according to InterMat senior editor Andrew Hipps. "In addition to his physical gifts, Jason has an extraordinary wrestling mind and is a true student of the sport. He has risen to the top at every level of wrestling, which has given him the confidence to win as a freshman, and competed on big stages throughout his entire life, which has given him the poise to handle high-pressure situations. Many freshmen hope to be NCAA champions. Jason expected to be an NCAA champion as a freshman. Jason also has a strong support system and coaches that help him get the most out of his ability."

On Friday, Penn State's David Taylor was named 2014 InterMat Wrestler of the Year. This week, InterMat will announce its Coach of the Year.


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dbabbitts (2) about 4 years ago
Cox is a true freshman and Retherford was in a weight class that featured a returning 2X champion and the returning runner up...both of them were more deserving than Tsirtsis. The 149 lb. weight class was a weak weight this year. At one time you guys had Nick Dardanes as the top ranked guy...Nuff Said.
joe_grappler (1) about 4 years ago
Tsirtis winning was a toss up with Cox, but give me a break on Retherford. Tsirtsis wrestled a brilliant tournament. Retherford didn't.... losing in OT to Port versus beating Houdy, Maple,... not even close.
dbabbitts (1) about 4 years ago
Retherford is a true freshman, Tsirtsis is not. Comparing Houdy and Maple (@ 49) to Port and Stieber, Give me a Break, not even close. Stieber beat EVERY '41 pounder with bonus points EXCEPT Zain...and he had 3 shots at him. Zain won the Scuffle, I think Tsirtsis was 5th at the less challenging Midlands. This is not freshman of the tournament, this is Freshman of the Year. Zain was better.
Corby184 (1) about 4 years ago
Zain got 5th at nationals... Tsirtsis won it. I'd tend to agree with you that Zain had a better year (sans nationals), but I can't get on board with the "at least he didn't get majored" logic.
Cox, however, should have won this award easily. He dominated in a weight where very few dominate, and doing so as a freshman (true or redshirt) is even more impressive.
dbabbitts (1) about 4 years ago
It's not "He didn't get majored logic", it's the formidability of Stieber and the fact that Zain presented a viable challenge to a David Tayloresque wrestler (Piles up points). I believe Stieber was 2nd or 3rd on pound-for-pound best wrestler lists. And then you have Mitchell Port who was undefeated and the returning finalist. Those are two significant hurdles for a seasoned wrestler, never mind a true freshman. Zain was a significant factor in Penn State winning it's 4th straight Big 10 and NCAA titles...and he wasn't even in their room last year. He was a more deserving candidate than red shirt Tsirtsis.
joe_grappler (1) about 4 years ago
Ask Zain who's year he'd rather have?
lenkam (2) about 4 years ago
jnbroncos (1) about 4 years ago
I don't think he's in the conversation. Pretty sure he won the award.
Dean20 (1) about 4 years ago
joegrappler...I just asked Zain. He picked himself. Tsirtis won loads of matches by 1 and 2 points in an easy weight. Also, Cox didn't face a wrestler nearly as good as Stieber. Retherford wasn't given his due credit because he lost to a future 4 timer. T-shirt is an obvious no. 3 guy here.
Yes-Man (1) about 4 years ago
Maybe it would be better eliminate this category since there's no level playing field (i.e. level mat).
Or, how about two categories?
1. True Freshman of the Year +
2. Fake Freshman of the Year
Ideally, redshirt freshman wouldn't be eligible for this vote.
jnbroncos (1) about 4 years ago
Wrestler of the Year, Coach(s) of the Year, and Freshman of the Year. dbabbitts and dean20, is it fair to say you both would have been fine if it would have been Taylor, Retherford, and Cael? Hmmm, biased much?
dbabbitts (1) about 4 years ago
Is it biased to give Coach of the Year to the coach who won the tournament? I read all these comments about "You gotta win it or you gotta finish it"...I guess that doesn't count when it comes to coaches...gimme a break.
Is it biased to give the OW wrestler award to the only undefeated wrestler in the field.
My point with Retherford is he was a TRUE freshman, in a weight class with a potential 4X champ and the returning runner up. I think the odds of him winning were far greater than both Tsirtsis and Cox and that neither one of them would have won under the same circumstances...Nuff Said.
TX_Wrestling_Fan (1) about 4 years ago
I think it should have been Cox, but he and Tsirtsis both brought home the big trophy and Tsirtsis wrestled in a tougher conference than J'Den. To the Zain supporters, he had an EXCITING year, but you gotta finish it. Plus, I disagree that 149 was weak. The top four at 149 would toss Zain around like a rag doll. Bottom line. Good for Tsirtsis. He had a better year. He won it.
State112 (1) about 4 years ago
J'den Cox, should of won freshman of the year.
Yes-Man (1) about 4 years ago
J'Den Cox was Freshman of the Year.