Wrestling News

Wrestling Legend Danny Hodge Passes Away

Inside the Ropes is sad to learn that legendary wrestler Danny Hodge passed away on Christmas day at the age of 88.

Widely considered to be one of the toughest wrestlers and greatest amateur athletes in US history, Hodge enjoyed a glittering collegiate career before he ever became a professional. With an unblemished 46-0 record for the University of Oklahoma, Hodge was reputed to have never been taken off his feet and racked up 36 pin-fall victories in the period between 1955 and 1957. He was so successful he became the only person in history to make the cover of Sports Illustrated while still an amateur wrestler.

Away from his amateur wrestling credentials, Hodge was considered by boxing manager Art Freeman to be a better pugilist than the legendary Rocky Marciano. Foregoing an opportunity to be a two sport athlete at the 1960 Olympics in Rome (as a boxer and a wrestler) Hodge turned professional and held a somewhat disputed record of 8-2 before retiring from boxing in 1959.

After training for a career under hard as nails hooker Ed “Strangler” Lewis (supposedly the greatest “defensive” shooter of all time) Hodge’s first major program was with NWA Junior Heavyweight Champion Angelo Savoldi. Their feud was so gritty and believable it led to Hodge’s own father jumping the barricade and stabbing Savoldi with a penknife, an act that landed Hodge Sr. in jail and Savoldi in the local hospital, where he received 70 stitches.

After winning the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship from Savoldi, Hodge became the headline act and biggest draw for the Leroy McGuirk’s Tri-State Wrestling territory, earning upwards of $80,000 a year, the equivalent of $700,000 a year today. Over his career Hodge held the NWA Junior Heavyweight Championship 8 different times for a cumulative total of 10 years as champion.

In a life that included such highlights as being a 3 time NCAA freestyle champion, a Golden Gloves boxing champion and winning a silver medal in the 1956 Olympic Games for freestyle wrestling, Hodge’s lasting legacy is The Dan Hodge Trophy, the collegiate amateur wrestling equivalent of college football’s Heisman Trophy.

Of his childhood hero Jim Ross once said:

“For my money, Dan Hodge is the greatest amateur wrestler ever produced in the U.S.A.”

Both WWE and AEW have also paid tribute to Hodge.

Everyone at Inside The Ropes sends our condolences to Danny Hodge’s friends, family and fans.