From 1960 to 1976, Hodge travelled the world squaring off against the top wrestlers in all of the NWA territories. "It got cold and I turned the heater up and I fell asleep. My car was on its rooftop going along the rock banisters and every time it hit one I could feel my teeth and neck break. I got out through the dash window, although my car was bent down to the dash and the seat, you can't imagine what little space there was but I got out through there and swam to the shore." Hodge was lucky to be alive.
Mc Guirk, a former NWA Junior heavyweight himself, liked what he saw in Hodge and built his promotion around him. It seems only fitting that it was an auto accident and not an opponent that put him down for the count for the last time.
Within nine months of his pro debut, Hodge defeated Angelo Savoldi on July 22, 1960 in Oklahoma City to win his first of seven NWA World Junior Heavyweight titles. On March 15, 1976, Hodge suffered a broken neck in a car accident that nearly took his life.
It was in university that the Hodge toughness first emerged.
Ineligible to compete his freshman year, Hodge went undefeated his remaining three years at Oklahoma, winning 46 matches. in the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, winning the silver medal in the freestyle competition after losing a controversial match to Nikola Stanchev of Bulgaria in the gold medal match.
"I won the regionals in Wichita and then I went to the tournament of champions in Chicago and I won it all. Then I go to the nationals in Madison Square Garden and won there.
So then I get back and they're blowing me full of smoke saying I'm going to be the next world champion after (Rocky) Marciano." Hodge turned pro but quickly quit the boxing circuit because he wasn't making any money.
An accomplished woodcrafter, the 68-year-old Hodge spends his afternoons whittling out wrestling ornaments, trunks, toys and belt racks from a mounting woodpile.
The tranquility of life in Perry contrasts starkly to the world of pro wrestling he dominated as the perennial National Wrestling Alliance World Junior Heavyweight champion from 1960 to 1976.
S., placing fifth at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki in the freestyle competition.