2023 NCAA Champion and Hodge Trophy recipient Mason Parris (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
2022-23 InterMat Big Ten Wrestler of the Year: Mason Parris (Michigan)
The accolades keep rolling in for Michigan big man Mason Parris. Parris became the first Michigan wrestler to take home the Dan Hodge Trophy after the award was revealed early last week. Key to his Hodge Trophy bid was a bonus-point rate that was over 63% at the 285 lb weight class. Throughout the 2022-23 campaign, Parris posted wins over 10 2023 All-Americans, a feat that hasn't been accomplished by a Hodge winner over the last decade-plus.
Despite wrestling such a tough schedule, Parris managed to get into bonus-point territory in both the NCAA quarters and semis against Lucas Davison and Tony Cassioppi, respectively. In the national finals, Parris downed Greg Kerkvliet for the third time this year. He was responsible for all three of Kerkvliet's losses during the 2022-23 season.
Parris finishes his career as a three-time NCAA All-American (1,5,2), along with another honor from the NWCA after the 2020 national tournament was canceled. He amassed a 126-18 career record with the Wolverines with half of those losses coming during his true freshman year.
2023 NCAA Runner-Up Levi Haines (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
2022-23 InterMat Big Ten Freshman of the Year: Levi Haines (Penn State)
This was a rather easy selection considering Levi Haines was the only freshman to make the NCAA finals and/or win a Big Ten title. A true freshman at that. Haines started the year with a loss at the Bearcat Open, but little did we know that would be his only setback heading into the NCAA Tournament. In late January, Haines seized the starting role at 157 lbs after beating returning All-American Will Lewan and Cobe Siebrecht.
Haines captured a Big Ten title by handing then-undefeated Peyton Robb his first loss of the season in the conference finals. That combined with a 23-1 record was good enough for that second seed at his first NCAA Tournament.
In Tulsa, Haines survived a scare from the dangerous Bryce Andonian in the quarterfinals, only to come back and pin Andonian late in the third period. To clinch a spot in the finals. Haines downed Robb for a second time, 6-4. In the finals, Haines came up short against Austin O'Connor, who went on to claim his second national title.
Haines' first year with Penn State ended with a 27-2 overall record. He'll likely be an early favorite in 2024 and in the years to come.
Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson (left) (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
2022-23 InterMat Big Ten Coach of the Year: Cael Sanderson (Penn State)
Sometimes with Coach of the Year awards, we try to get too cute. Maybe it was a coach that took a normally poor team to respectability. In other years, it's a coach that may hit a significant milestone. It seems like we look for anything other than awarding the coach that wins the most. That's what Cael Sanderson has done at Penn State. In 2023, his squad won a tenth national championship since 2011 and did so, outscoring second-place Iowa by 55 points.
There's also something to be said for winning when everyone expects you to and you constantly have a target on your back. Sanderson did that as a wrestler and now as a coach.
On the mat, Penn State crowned two national champions (Carter Starocci and Aaron Brooks) extending their streak of at least one, a run that started in 2011. While they mathematically clinched the tournament much later, for all intents and purposes, the 2023 tournament was decided in the quarterfinals when Penn State went a perfect 7-0. Five of their nine national qualifiers wrestled above their seeds, while two others matched their seed.
The Nittany Lions finished the 2023 tournament with eight All-Americans, seven of which placed third or higher.
Before winning their second consecutive national tournament, Penn State claimed their first Big Ten crown since 2019. At the Big Ten's, Sanderson's team had six finalists and four champions.
For the third year in a row, Penn State finished the dual season unbeaten. The Nittany Lions will carry a 44-match winning streak into the 2023-24 season. Their last dual loss came at the hands of Iowa on January 31, 2020.