Amateur and professional wrestling lost a true legend today in Danny Hodge. The Oklahoma-born Olympian was 88 years old and leaves a legacy unbridled in the world of collegiate sports. Longtime friend and fan, Jim Ross, was one of the first to report the unfortunate news.
“Hard to believe that my boyhood hero, riding partner, and mentor, the great Danny Hodge has passed away. Danny was the best wrestler, amateur and pro, I’ve ever been around,” JR Tweeted out.
Hard to believe that my boyhood hero, riding partner, and mentor, the great #DannyHodge has passed away.
— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) December 26, 2020
Born in Perry, Oklahoma, Hodge was a true superstar in the sport of collegiate wrestling defeating future or former NCAA Conference Champions. Some of Hodge’s school and collegiate wrestling accolades include:
- 1951 Oklahoma state champ for Perry High School, 165 pounds
- 46-0 collegiate record, with 36 falls
- Never allowed a takedown
- 3x Big Seven conference champ at 177 pounds (1955-57)
- 3x NCAA champ (1955-57)
- 2x Outstanding Wrestler, NCAAs
- 2x U.S. Olympic men’s freestyle team member — 1952 Helinski (did not place) and 1956 Melbourne (silver medal)
Hodge was so dominant in the sport that the amateur equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for best collegiate wrestler of the year is named after him. He also happens to be the only amateur wrestler to don the cover of Sports Illustrated.
My HERO RIPDAN https://t.co/Rw4HVC9OQs
— Gerald BRISCO 🤼♂️ (@Fgbrisco) December 26, 2020
From there, Hodge took on the challenges of professional wrestling and pugilism. He became the cowbell representative of the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship which he held eight times in 10 years. Hodge was inducted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2007 and in his own Hall of Fame speech, Bret Hart referred to Danny as “one of the greatest wrestlers in pro wrestling or amateur wrestling there’s ever been.” Hodge was trained under the legendary Leroy McQuirk and Ed “Strangler” Lewis and had a squared circle career that near spanned two decades.
JR spoke of the high status of Danny Hodge in a 2019 interview, calling him “The mac daddy. Danny Hodge is the greatest wrestler that ever lived in my eyes. The greatest of all time.”
We here at WrestleZone wish our deepest thoughts, condolences and prayers to the friends, family and friends of the one and only, Danny Hodge.