Dan was asked about the story that he has never been beaten since high school.
"That's not exactly true. I lost once at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki and once again at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne."
I had to get the rest of the story from Coach Robertson.
"Dan tried Olympic freestyle wrestling for the first time in 1952. He got to the Olympic quarter-finals. Freestyle is different from our college style. It's almost like learning a new sport. You can't roll free and easy to maneuver for position in Olympic wrestling because an instant brush of the shoulders on the mat is considered a pin. If they worked it that way in college wrestling, half the champions would wind up pinning themselves in half their matches. Sometimes a man has to brush his shoulders on the mat to gain an advantageous position. That's what happened to Dan at Melbourne. He missed winning the 174-pound gold medal by two seconds. He was way ahead of this Bulgarian on points, but while trying to roll for a better hold his shoulders touched the mat. The referee called it a fall just as the buzzer ended the period. Dan won a silver medal. Still, it was the highest award the U.S. got in wrestling."
On the morning of the trip to Stillwater, the Oklahoma wrestling team met early at the gym and the wrestlers checked their weights. Ten were making the trip, and weight was a touchy subject with all of them. Two were slightly over their limits but counted on the two-hour car trip to help them shed a quarter of a pound. It worked, and everyone passed the scale test that afternoon. Hodge came closest to his limit. "No sense losing any more than you have to," he said.
An hour before the matches, wrestling fans began filling the A&M field house. By match time there were 6,000 of them.
Coach Robertson called his team together in the dressing room. They sat on a rubdown table in a neatly graduated, red-robed row. "The Aggies," Robertson told them, "are no patsies. Maybe we beat them early this season, but that was at home. This is Aggie country and that crowd out there is going to be helping them, not us. I want you to hustle, understand? Be aggressive. You be aggressive and you hustle, you're going to whip the pants off them.... O.K. Now let's go out there and win."
They did, indeed.
Oklahoma beat the Aggies in seven of eight bouts. The final score was OU 23, A&M 3, the worst the Aggies had ever been beaten in their proud wrestling history. The most impressive victory of the evening was Dan Hodge's.
THROATY, INCREASING ROAR