No, nuTrek did not exist when TWOK came out. When I-- and everybody I've ever known or spoken to until this thread-- understood is that Kirk found a way to beat the no-win scenario. He came up with his own option that the Academy had not considered. He beat the conditions of the test. That was the whole point of the scene and why it was punctuated with the unexpected rescue. The idea that he simply hacked the program and stuck in a dumb-ass cheat code never occurred to anybody. How would that earn him a commendation? If anything, retconning what PrimeKirk did is an attempt to make excuses for the reboot.
No doubt I would have enjoyed a different form of cheating, like Kirk flying through an invisible curtain of stars or getting the Klingons stuck in an invisible corner in a video game fashion.
But that is a matter of a preference. Installing a subroutine through a security hole and exploiting a hole in the test itself are essentially the same thing from a rational standpoint. There is no difference, you broke the simulation. And this worked better for the drama.
By the way, reality seems to have more "holes" than a simulation can ever, purposefully or by accident, have. Some of them Kirk has exploited on multiple occasions in the new films, the old films and TOS. That seems to me like an acceptable excuse for both kinds of cheating – even in reality, sometimes you trick your opponent by exploiting the flaws in their behaviour, sometimes you crack their ship's computer.