Jim Ross on Superstars with amateur backgrounds

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October 09, 2012

Jim Ross discusses Danny Hodge and other amateur greats in his latest article for WWE Classics.

Long before social media and even television, enterprising wrestling promoters wisely scouted and signed new stars that would not only help them sell tickets, but also garner publicity from mainstream sports media. But how did they find these athletic specimens who had already earned name identity in their chosen fields of athletic competition?

The answer was simple — scour the amateur wrestling world for the “next big thing.”

The list of amateur wrestlers who made significant contributions in the world of sports-entertainment is too expansive to list here, but we’ll try and mention some of the more prominent names that made their mark inside the squared circle. (PHOTOS)

Verne Gagne, a WWE Hall of Famer, was a member of the 1948 United States Olympic wrestling team at 191 pounds. Gagne went on to purchase the Minneapolis Boxing and Wrestling Club in 1960, leading to the former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher to create the American Wrestling Association and become the AWA World Champion 10 different times before his retirement in 1981.

Arguably, the most talented and skilled amateur wrestler to migrate to the professional level was my personal favorite, Danny Hodge. Hodge went to two Olympic games, never lost a single match in college at Oklahoma University, won three national titles (freshmen weren’t eligible in those days) and never allowed a single point to be scored against him his senior year, which is unfathomable to this day.

The Heisman Trophy equivalent in collegiate wrestling is named the Dan Hodge Award, which illustrates just how Dan is perceived within that culture. Hodge and Lou Thesz were at one time considered “Wrestling Gods” in Japan (no offense JBL) as Dan traveled the world defending the NWA Junior Heavyweight Title for wrestlers weighing 225 pounds or less. For my money, Dan Hodge is the greatest amateur wrestler ever produced in the USA.

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