Olympic Club Announces Hallock, Hooper and Wolf as Cutino Award Finalists

December 1, 2018; , Palo Alto, CA, USA; Collegiate Men's Water Polo:NCAA Semi Finals: USC vs UCLA; UCLA Bruins Goalkeeper Alex Wolf Photo credit: Catharyn Hayne
UCLA's Alex Wolf stands tall in a 2018 NCAA semifinal match. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

By Michael Randazzo, Swimming World Contributor

Earlier today The Olympic Club in San Francisco announced three finalists for this year’s Peter J. Cutino award. As is often the case with an honor of this magnitude—selecting the year’s top male collegiate water polo player—intrigue swirls around who was not nominated as much as who was.

Leading the nominees is Ben Hallock, named yesterday by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches as its 2018 Player of the Year. The red-shirt sophomore—who at 21 has already played in the 2016 Rio Olympics and is likely for the 2020 Tokyo Games—tallied 65 goals in leading Stanford to an NCAA final for the first time since 2008.

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Ben Hallock. Photo Courtesy: Stanford Athletics

Joining the top Cardinal as a finalist is Johnny Hooper, who plays for Cal, Stanford’s biggest rival. The dynamic senior attacker scored an impressive 49 goals in just 15 games to finish up his Golden Bear career with 245, good for second all-time in Cal history. Hooper has an NCAA title to his credit—in 2016—and registered 39 thefts this season, making him number one in program history for steals.

A win by Hooper would make it back-to-back Golden Bears; Luca Cupido was the 2018 Cutino Award winner.

[Cupido and Longan Capture 2018 Cutino Awards at The Olympic Club]

Completing the trio is UCLA’s Alex Wolf, who has established himself as the country’s second-best goalie after McQuin Baron, the 2017 Cutino winner, and may end up competing with the former Trojan for the top spot on the country’s best squad—the U.S. men’s Olympic team.

After backstopping the Bruins to the 2017 NCAA title—and capturing MVP finals honors—Wolf registered 179 saves in 2018 and positioned UCLA for a return to the national title match. He made 16 saves in a semifinal match against USC, but it was one he couldn’t stop—a shot by Sam Slobodian with five seconds remaining—that proved to be the difference in an 8-7 Trojan victory, a prelude to a USC national championship title.

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Johnny Hooper takes on all challengers. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Two players who did not make the cut, but are sure to be in future discussions about the country’s best, are Trojans Hannes Daube and Jacob Mercep. Daube tallied 58 goals in his first year playing for Head Coach Jovan Vavic, providing a fantastic offensive counterpart to Marko Vavic (57 goals) and Mercep, who led the team with 62 tallies.

After a freshman year torching Golden Coast Conference opponents—and everyone else—playing for San Jose State, Mercep switched to Southern Cal, and Trojan faithful couldn’t be happier. Filling the crucial weak-side slot in the USC offense, the lefty sophomore capped a brilliant campaign with five scores in a 14-12 Trojan victory over Stanford in the 2018 national championship match, securing MVP honors and helping Vavic capture a 10th title in the last two decades.

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Jacob Mercep. Photo Courtesy: Catharyn Hayne

Established in 1999 by The Olympic Club, the Cutino Award is given annually to the top men’s and women’s NCAA Division I water polo players as voted on by coaches from across the country. Peter J. Cutino, the award namesake, is a legend in United States water polo history, with eight NCAA titles during his 26 seasons (1963-1988) as head coach at Cal.

The winner will be announced at the annual award gala hosted by The Olympic Club in their downtown San Francisco clubhouse on Saturday, June 1. Female nominees will be named at the conclusion of their season next spring.

The Olympic Club has a long and distinguished competitive water polo history, a tradition that continues today in the pool with some of the best age-group teams in the world.

With content from The Olympic Club

2 comments

    • avatar
      Michael Randazzo

      Hi Thomas:

      Yes, congratulations ARE in order for the nomination; will be interesting to see how the voting goes down. As we all learned in 2016, it’s all about the will of the voters (or maybe it’s the participation that counts…!).

      Your correspondent