Name: Danny Hodge
Year Inducted: 2007
Induction Category: Television Era
Born in Perry, Oklahoma on May13th, 1932 Danny Hodge is known as "The
Wrestler's Wrestler". Those of us who know Danny have a hard time believing
that this mild mannered, easy going, perfect gentlemen is, and was, one of
the most feared combatants ever to wear wrestling tights or put on the
boxing gloves. Only two men, Paul Berlenbach and Danny Hodge, have held
national championships in both sports.
Hodge stormed out of the Oklahoma plains in the early 1950's and first
captured the state title while at Perry High School. Upon high school
graduation, he joined the Navy and won a spot on the 1952 Olympic Wrestling
team in Helsinki, where, at age nineteen, he placed fifth. Upon military
completion, the future legend entered the University of Oklahoma. Danny won
three national titles and was named the NCAA "Wrestler of the Year" in both
his junior and senior years. Impressively, he was never taken off his feet
during his entire amateur career and never surrendered a takedown.
At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Danny, who had just defeated four
opponents, then faced the Bulgarian wrestler. Many still consider the
referee's call in that match to be a disgrace to Olympic officiating. Danny
suffered his first loss and had to settle for the Silver medal. In his next
and final match against a Russian wrestler, he applied his three quarter
nelson with such force that the hold was barred from all future Olympics as
being too brutal and vicious.
Upset with the Olympic outcome, he decided to give boxing a try. Danny had
seventeen straight victories and won the National Golden Gloves championship,
He turned professional but the pay offs were not what he expected as a
boxer, so boxing's loss was to be wrestling's gain.
For almost twenty years, Danny dominated the NWA Jr. Heavyweight division by
wrestling all of the top stars and eventually winning the title from PWHF'er
Angelo Savoldi. In Japan, he is a legend and only Lou Thesz and Dick Beyer
can claim the same fame there. A match with Danny Hodge could be a two year
training session in one hour or a night you would never want to repeat. His
unbelievable grip and upper body strength could make you yell like a stuck
pig as many men vainly attempted to test his famed grip. A handshake could
drop even the strongest wrestlers to their knees in pain.
With the April 1, 1957 issue, Danny became the only depicted amateur wrestler
ever to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He also has the
distinction of being on the cover of the Perry phone book. Danny has received
almost every honor the wrestling world has to offer. He is a Wrestling
Institute Hall of Fame member, a two-time Cauliflower Alley honoree, and
received the Lou Thesz Memorial Award. Many major wrestling tournaments
today are called the Danny Hodge Invitational. At seventy-five years of age,
he remains active in the amateur wrestling world.
There may be a few as good as Danny Hodge but I think all will agree there
are none that are any better. Danny will be the first to tell you that he has
appreciated the fifty-plus years of support from his lovely wife Dolores.
If you do not know Danny, be sure to shake his hand "gently" when he receives
his PWHF Induction ring.
- Karl Lauer