The greatness of Dan Hodge

By Mark Palmer
Senior Writer
How do you measure the greatness of a wrestler?

Most of us would start with national and conference titles. Then, factor in won-loss records, pinning percentages, how many points put on the board ... all those statistical measures are key to determining a wrestler's greatness. Other factors to consider: various honors and awards during his/her wrestling career, including Outstanding Wrestler honors at specific tournaments such as the NCAA championships.

Yet another measure of a wrestler's greatness: the quality of his/her opponents. Did they face challenging competitors who also had accumulated impressive titles, stats, and honors ... or did he/she manage to skate through their careers relatively unscathed because their competition wasn't, well, very tough?

Dan Hodge, who was inducted as a Distinguished Member into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as part of the Charter Class in 1976, was the dominant college wrestler of the 1950s ... and one of the all-time greats. The University of Oklahoma mat star of the mid-1950s won all the national and conference titles he could at the time. His individual statistics were nothing short of mind-blowing. He was richly rewarded with awards and honors at the time ... and, more recently, the leading award presented to the nation's top college wrestler is now named in his honor. And ... Hodge defeated opponents who had been -- or were about to become -- NCAA and conference champs.

The 411 on Dan Hodge

Dan Allen Hodge was born in May 1932 on a farm outside Perry, Oklahoma. He wrestled at Perry High School -- one of the all-time great prep programs in the nation -- where he won an Oklahoma state title in 1951. Immediately upon graduation, he signed up for the U.S. Navy, where he was able to continue his wrestling career, earning a spot on the 1952 U.S. Olympic men's freestyle team. Having completed his service to Uncle Sam, Hodge was heavily recruited by Northwestern University ... but the Oklahoma native was persuaded to return to his home state by University of Oklahoma head coach Port Robertson, who was inducted as a Distinguished Member into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1977. The Sooners were one of the leading college wrestling programs of that era, and still rank fourth in total number of NCAA team titles won (seven), behind Oklahoma State, University of Iowa, and Iowa State.

Read Full Story

Our Mission: To honor the sport of wrestling by preserving its history, recognizing extraordinary individual achievements, and inspiring future generations