The weigh-in was over now and there was nothing to occupy Dan Hodge's mind but the man he must wrestle in five hours. For two days his immediate enemy had been food and drink. But now he weighed 177 pounds officially and his weight no longer mattered. The thick steak gave his belly a pleasant, packed feeling, but the pleasure of anticipation was gone. He had talked all morning of eating. "Ice cream. Steak. I'm going to get me some ice cream and steak." Now he was not hungry any more and his thoughts turned to the match at 8 o'clock. Thinking about it made him nervous.
"Want to lie down for a while, Dan?" It was Port Robertson, the Oklahoma coach. "We have two rooms upstairs if you want to lie down."
Dan stared around the lobby of the hotel. The team always stayed here when it came to Stillwater to wrestle Oklahoma A&M. The television set in the corner was tuned in to a pro basketball game, but Dan did not feel like watching basketball.
"Naw, Port. Think I'll go to the movies."
He gathered a few of his teammates and went off to lose his nerves.
Dan Hodge is the best college wrestler in the country. He has never been beaten in 41 college matches. More astounding, in the college sport in which a pin is a rarity, Hodge has pinned 32 of his opponents, the last 19 of them in succession.
This weekend, March 29 and 30, more than 200 wrestlers from 60 colleges and universities will gather at the University of Pittsburgh for the national college wrestling championships. Of them all, the man to watch is Hodge. Not only will he be after his third straight intercollegiate 177-pound championship—a feat rare in itself—but he will also be trying to gain recognition for the second straight year as the tournament's outstanding wrestler.
MUSCLES FOR THE PANTHEON
There is every reason to believe he will realize his ambition. Rex Peery, coach of the University of Pittsburgh team, describes the 24-year-old Oklahoman as the finest collegian to come along in years. "He's too good for college boys," said Peery. "He's head and shoulders ahead of anything we've got." This is high praise coming from Peery, a fellow who was an intercollegiate champ at Oklahoma A&M in his undergraduate days and who since then has coached two of his sons, Hugh (now graduated) and Ed, to national championships at Pitt.
Largely because of Dan Hodge, Oklahoma will be favored to win the NCAA team title, but not without strong opposition from Iowa, Pitt, Oklahoma A&M, Penn State and Lehigh, perennial powers in a sport which seems to be dominated by muscular types from the states of Iowa, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.