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"The biggest objection I have to sweatbox control," said Robertson, "is what it does to morale. I think what you can't work off or run off, the good Lord put there for a purpose. I don't let my wrestlers use a sweatbox."
"Naw," said Dan, "he'd much rather see us starve."
That afternoon at practice, Dan looked anything but weak from hunger. He was dressed in red tights and white canvas wrestling shoes. His torso rose in a V to powerful shoulders and corded neck. On the mat he was no longer a diffident country boy. His workout opponent that day—as on every day of the long training season-was his teammate Gene White, who was Oklahoma's first-string 177-pounder before Dan came to school. It is White's fairly thankless job to try to beat Dan. Sometimes he comes close, but only because that, too, is part of the training job.
"I let him get me every once in a while," says Dan, "just to remember what it's like to have someone on top of me—so I won't be lost if it happens in a match."
It has not happened yet. Gene White, for one, does not think it will ever happen in American catch-as-catch-can wrestling: "He's a strong man. Strong as maybe three men, in fact. Every once in a while I think maybe I have him, and then he explodes. I can't whip him. I don't think anybody can."
Dan decided that the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED man should learn firsthand what some of his holds feel like. "I'll just use quarter-pressure, so don't be nervous." I agreed. We got down in the referee's position ( Hodge on all fours, I to his side with my right arm looped about his waist, my left hand with a death grip on his left arm). Since I had done a little schoolboy wrestling and outweighed Dan by 20 pounds or so, I had a brief vision of giving him a run for his money. At the signal to start he backed into me and my head went over his shoulder. Next thing I knew, my neck was in a vise grip. My torso and legs were up there somewhere, miles above my head in free flight. I landed on my back, pinned as neatly as a basted hemline.
"Shouldn't have stuck your head over my shoulder," said Hodge in a gently reproving tone. "That's a basic mistake."
For the next 15 minutes I was half crushed in a Hodge scissors, stretched at least two inches in a double grapevine, bent into a circle in a cradle, forced to chew on my own fist in a double bar arm. More than anything, the experience helped me develop a real feeling of compassion for Gene White.
Dan has been wrestling since he was 13. At that age he moved in from the countryside, with its limited country school, for the better opportunities of high school in Perry (pop. 5,200). His high school wrestling coach at Perry, John Devine, got him a job at a filling station and a place to sleep in the fire house. Dan worked his way through school, won two state championships and was undefeated his last two years. When Dan graduates from Oklahoma U. in June, with a degree in industrial arts, he wants to go into high school teaching—coaching wrestling on the side like John Devine. "Professional wrestling? Not for me. I want to be a teacher."