Daniel Allen “Danny” Hodge (born May 13, 1932) is a retired American wrestler and boxer. He is renowned for his wrestling career, both amateur and professional, and has also been a boxer. Hodge was born, grew up, and still lives in Perry, Oklahoma. Danny Hodge is famous for crushing apples with one hand, a feat which he demonstrated live on ESPN during the 2006 NCAA Wrestling Championships. He said his strength was due to having double tendons in his hands.
Amateur wrestling career
At Perry High School in Oklahoma, Hodge won the 165-pound title at the state tournament in 1951. As a collegiate wrestler for the University of Oklahoma, Hodge was undefeated at 46-0, with 36 pins. He was a three-time Big Seven conference champ at 177 pounds (1955-1957), and won the 177-pound title at the NCAA championships those same three years, pinning all three of his finals opponents. (Hodge is only one of two three-time NCAA Division I champs to have done that, the other being Oklahoma State Earl McCready in 1928-1930.) Hodge never taken down from a standing position while in college. He is the only amateur wrestler to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated as an amateur wrestler. He worked as a professional wrestler for eighteen years, and was a 5-time USA Tag Team Champion, with Skandor Akbar, among others.
His reputation as a high school wrestler preceded him when he joined the US Navy in 1951. At Ames, Iowa, in April 1952, Hodge survived the US Olympic Trials, and was coached by Naval Academy Instructor Ray Swartz in the 174-pound division. At the Helsinki Olympics, Hodge was defeated by USSR’s David Cimakuridze. Going into May 1956 wrestling trials for US Olympic team, Hodge was middleweight favourite. He was eliminated on May 2 by William Smith. Smith was embroiled in controversy with the Central AAU and Hodge was his substitute. After two Olympics appearances, Hodge placed 5th in 1952, and won the Silver Medal in 1956, in Melbourne, Australia.
The Dan Hodge Trophy, named after him, is the amateur wrestling equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Professional wrestling career
Trained by Leroy McGuirk and “Strangler” Ed Lewis, Hodge made his debut as a professional wrestler in October 1959. Hodge’s first major feud was with National Wrestling Alliance Junior Heavyweight Champion Angelo Savoldi. Hodge’s rivalry with Savoldi led to a bizarre event.
Hodge’s father entered the ring during a boxing match on May 27, 1960, between Hodge and Savoldi, and stabbed Savoldi with a penknife. Savoldi required seventy stitches at a local hospital, while Hodge’s father was arrested. On July 22, 1960, Hodge defeated Savoldi for the NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship at the Stockyards Coliseum in Oklahoma City. Hodge became McGuirk’s principal headliner, and by 1962, Hodge was making upwards of $80,000 a year.
Danny Hodge was a perennial NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, holding the title eight times for a total of over ten years. This was longer than anyone, including Nelson Royal. In 2007, Hodge was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Hodge has made appearances in WWE on Raw in 2005 and 2012 in which he honored fellow Oklahoma wrestling native Jim Ross.
Danny won the 1958 Chicago Golden Gloves at Heavyweight, then won a Chicago-NY Intercity bout in October, beating Charley Hood. He finished his amateur career with 17 wins, no losses and 12 KO’s. Convinced by boxing manager Art Freeman that he was a better prospect than Rocky Marciano, Hodge decided to become a professional boxer rather than pursue the opportunity to compete as a boxer and a wrestler at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. In his professional boxing debut, he scored a first-round knockout victory over Norm Jackson. As a professional, he had a reported record of 8-2, although only 7 wins have been documented. He retired on July 9, 1959.
On March 29, 2005, Danny Hodge was honored by Oklahoma state lawmakers as an ‘Oklahoma Sports Hero’. He also serves as chairman of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, which regulates professional boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts in Oklahoma.