Earl Caddock has the very high honor of being the first great amateur wrestling champion to become a great professional champion, as well.
Born on February 18, 1888 , on a farm near Huron, South Dakota , Earl’s family moved to Iowa when he was two years old. He began wrestling as an Iowa farm boy and won three AAU national titles. He captured the 175-pound and heavyweight titles in 1915. He was undefeated as an amateur.
Caddock began professional wrestling in 1915 with great success. He trained with Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns and won his first 61 professional matches in a row. He captured the world heavyweight title on April 9, 1917 , with a stirring victory over Joe Stecher in Omaha . The country eagerly awaited a Caddock-Stecher rematch, but World War I intervened and Earl signed up to fight, seeing considerable front-line action with the infantry in France .
Earl returned to the ring after the war and continued his long sting of victories. He finally lost his title to Stecher in a sellout match in 1920 in Madison Square Garden before 14,000 fans. Known as the “Man of a Thousand Holds,” Caddock spent most of his later life in Walnut, Iowa , and Omaha , Nebraska , and ran a very successful oil business. Both of his sons played college football in Iowa . He died on August 25, 1950 at the age of 62.