Hodge, then aged 80, crushing an apple with one hand at the Oklahoma House of Representatives in May 2013
|Full name||Daniel Allen Hodge|
|Born||May 13, 1932|
Perry, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Residence||Perry, Oklahoma, U.S.|
Daniel Allen Hodge (born May 13, 1932) is a retired American wrestler and boxer. He is renowned for his wrestling career, both amateur and professional. He was born and raised in Perry, Oklahoma, where he continues to live. He is famous for the ability to crush 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 and reportedly was never taken off his feet during his collegiate career. 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 A&M's Earl McCready in 1928–1930.) 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 favorite. 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 after being defeated at the final by Bulgarian Nikola Stanchev.
Professional wrestling career
Trained by Leroy McGuirk and Ed "Strangler" 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 70 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.
Hodge was a perennial NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, holding the title eight times for a total of over ten years, longer than anyone else. 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.
WWE Hall of Famer and seven-time world champion Bret Hart has referred to Hodge as "one of the greatest wrestlers in pro wrestling or amateur wrestling there’s ever been", and described being in the same room as Hodge at the 2008 National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum's award ceremony as "a big, big honor for me".
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, Hodge was honored by Oklahoma state lawmakers as an "Oklahoma Sports Hero". He serves as chairman of the Oklahoma Professional Boxing Commission, which regulates professional boxing, wrestling, and mixed martial arts in Oklahoma.
Championships and accomplishments
- Cauliflower Alley Club
- Lou Thesz Award (2007)
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame
- Class of 2000
- Japan Wrestling Association
- NWA Mid-America
- NWA Tri-State
- NWA North American Heavyweight Championship (Tri-State version) (3 times)
- NWA United States Tag Team Championship (Tri-State version) (5 times) – with Skandor Akbar (2), Lorenzo Parente (1), Luke Brown (1), and Jay Clayton (1)
- NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship (7 times)
- Pro Wrestling Illustrated
- PWI Stanley Weston Award (1996)
- Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards
1The records are unclear as to where two of Hodge's eight NWA World Junior Heavyweight Championship reigns began. The records are also unclear as to which NWA affiliated promotion or promotions Hodge wrestled for when he won the championship on those two occasions.
- Fairley, Tim (May 15, 2013). "Attempting a reversal: Oklahoma's wrestling greats grapple with the International Olympics Committee to return the sport to the games". Oklahoma Gazette. Retrieved May 19, 2013.
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 224, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6
- National Wrestling Alliance, The Untold Story of the Monopoly that Strangled Pro Wrestling, p. 225, Tim Hornbaker, ECW Press, 2007, ISBN 1-55022-741-6
- Martin, Adam (October 1, 2012). "WWE posts video of Jim Ross Appreciation Night". WrestleView. Retrieved October 1, 2012.
- Mooneyham, Mike (May 10, 2009). "Hodge has lived the American dream". The Post and Courier. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- "Oklahoma State Athletic Commission- Commissioners". Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- "Ventura given Museum's top honour". Slam! Wrestling. Canadian Online Explorer. August 4, 2003. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
- Puroresu Dojo. "NWA International Tag Team Title". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- Royal Duncan and Gary Will (2000). "Tennessee: U.S. Tag Team Title". Wrestling Title Histories. Archeus Communications. p. 194. ISBN 0-9698161-5-4.
- "NWA United States Tag Team Title (Mid-America)". wrestling-titles.com. Retrieved April 23, 2015.
- Puroresu Dojo. "NWA North American Heavyweight Championship (Tri-State/Mid-South)". Wrestling-Titles.com. Retrieved April 8, 2015.