American Heavyweight Champion

99 Counties | FIND Iowa
Mar 5, 2024 | 02:28

How have Iowans made a impact in the world?

Frank Gotch made history in the sport of wrestling. Learn how is accomplishment paved the way for young wrestlers today.


Abby Brown:

Once Upon a Time the most popular sport in America did not involve swinging bats, bouncing balls, or shooting pucks. It was a one-on-one test of strength and skill, and in Iowan was the champion. The city of Humboldt, Iowa is in-- no big mystery here-- Humboldt County! Wrestling is the big Legend here, all thanks to Frank Gotch, who grew up in Humboldt. There's an awesome statue of Gotch here in Bicknell Park, where you can strike Frank's famous wrestling pose and see how you measure up. How do I look? I feel pretty strong.

Back in Frank Gotch's day, football was viewed as too rough, baseball hadn't gained National popularity yet, and basketball and hockey were still new. So wrestling was a sport that brought people together to cheer. In 1908 thousands of people watched as Frank Gotch wrestled George Hackenschmidt, aka the Russian Lion. Frank won, making him the first American World Heavyweight Champion! That win skyrocketed him to worldwide sports fame. When Frank Gotch attended a Chicago Cubs baseball game, the players were asking him for his autograph! Wow, he was really famous! The creation of the Iowa High School Wrestling Tournament over a hundred years ago was in part due to the fame of Frank Gotch. This statue is not only a tribute to a famous Iowan, it's a reminder of a time when being a champion wrestler was the most important championship in the world.

Every County in Iowa has a heroic story to tell. Thanks for checking out Humboldt County with me.