If Dan Hanson closes his eyes and listens, he can still hear the roar of the crowd.
That roar has been heard several times since that winter of 1987, but this roar was different.
This roar was for him.
Hanson, a member of the 2013 News-Herald High School Sports Hall of Fame, was a senior 119-pounder at Richmond Heights. He had just finished off a 10-5 decision over Joe Bonaventura from Grandview Heights when he rose to his feet at St. John Arena in the winter of 1987.
“There were less mats then than there are now,” Hanson said. “But, yeah, there was definitely a standing ovation. It was something.”
By “it,” Hanson meant the ovation.
But there was another “it” that was “something.” That victory over Bonaventura gave Hanson his fourth state championship in wrestling.
In the history of Ohio wrestling, only 25 have won four state championships. At the time of Hanson’s victory, only a few other wrestlers had won four titles. Mark Zimmer (Columbus DeSales) capped his four-year run in 1979 and brothers Jim (1982) and Jeff Jordan (1985) also accomplished the feat.
In that 1987 tournament, Hanson was part of a triumvirate of four-time winners, joining Oberlin’s Eric Burnett and Columbus Ready’s Ken Ramsey.
Hanson’s four-peat, along with his career record of 118-4, are the reasons he is part of the inaugural News-Herald Hall of Fame class.
“It’s a huge honor for me,” Hanson said. “It’s an honor and a privilege for me to be part of the first class. I think some of the other (inductees) are more of household names than I am, but I’m very thankful for this honor.”
Hanson wasn’t necessarily destined for wrestling greatness from birth, but there was certainly writing on the wall before he even got to high school to wrestle for then-coach Mike Papouras.
Hanson’s brother Jim Hanson (Class of 1975) won a pair of state titles and brother Tim (Class of 1981) was a star in his own right in winning three state titles and accumulating a career record of 85-0.
“There were expectations,” Dan Hanson admitted, “but they were self-imposed. I don’t think there was ever a competition between us. It was just like I was the next Hanson to carry on the torch — you have to do better.”
So he did.
His freshman year he won the 98-pound state title in Class A, defeating Cardinal’s Alan Niekirk. The pair of Northeastern Ohioans also met for the 105-pound title the following year, with Hanson taking a 12-5 decision.
He didn’t know it at the time, but Hanson had lost for the last time as a high schooler. After three losses as a freshman and one as a sophomore, Hanson was undefeated in his final two years.
His junior year ended with a 15-1 major decision over Sandusky St. Mary’s Bill Meyer, with the win over Bonaventure making it four state titles and two straight undefeated seasons.
“Yeah, I do remember the four losses,” Hanson said with a chuckle. “I lost to a guy from Brush my freshman year, 6-4, at the Richmond Heights Invitational. Then to Erbacher from Bay and Mark Marinelli from DeSales in the same week.
“Then in my sophomore year I lost to Schneider from North Olmsted when I was up at 112. I cut to 105 for tournament time.”
Hanson relished in competition. Of course, there was plenty of it in the Richmond Heights wrestling room. The Spartans were the small-school envy of Ohio in those days, piling up individual and team state championships in droves.
Then there was the competition from everyone he faced. After all, facing a multi-state champion brings out the best in opponents.
“But I never protected a record,” he said. “To me, I just wanted to get better, better, better and better. I didn’t think about the losses or the (two-year winning streak).”
Because of his on-mat exploits, Hanson received an athletic scholarship to the University of Wisconsin. He redshirted his freshman year, but went 29-5 in open tournaments that season. Upon returning for what he hoped to be a successful college career, Hanson blew out is left knee.
He never wrestled a match again for the Badgers.
“I don’t really have regrets,” Hanson said. “I got hurt. If there is any regret, it’s that I never got to find out how good I was at college.”
Hanson, 44, remains in the sport of wrestling. He has been an assistant coach at Walsh Jesuit for the past six years. He said giving back to the sport that gave him and taught him so much has brought a joy to his life.
So is walking down the hallway at Value City Arena in Columbus, where the state individual tournament is held (the state dual tournament is held at St. John). Pictured along that walk wrestlers make from the warm-up room to the mats are photos of all the former wrestling greats in Ohio.
Among the photos is that of Hanson.
“It’s funny to look at the picture and how thin I was,” Hanson laughed. “The kids always laugh at the 1987 hair and things like that. But it’s an honor to be among the state champions.”
- Who: 2013 News-Herald High School Sports Hall of Fame inductee
- Sport: Wrestling
- High school: Richmond Heights
- Where are they now?: Assistant wrestling coach at Walsh Jesuit
- High school highlights: Four-time state champion, 118-4 career record
By John Kampf | JKampf@News-Herald.com | Twitter: @NHPreps