In the book 100 Greatest Sports Heroes, author Mac Davis writes that Frank Gotch “was the idol of millions in the United States , Canada and Mexico ” and “made wrestling a big-time sport in his day.” Legendary boxing and wrestling historian Nat Fleischer said Gotch was directly responsible for wrestling becoming popular in colleges in the 1920s.
Frank Gotch was born April 27, 1878 , on a farm near Huboldt , Iowa , and lived in Humboldt all his life. He trained under the great Farmer Burns and defeated Tom Jenkins for the U.S. title in 1905. Gotch won the world championship from George Hackenschimdt, the famed Russian Lion, in 1908. Their rematch in 1911 in Comiskey Park drew 33,000 fans, and made Gotch a sports super star.
After the first Hackenschmidt match, Gotch starred in a play that traveled the East Coast and Europe . He also toured in the top circus of the day, taking on all comers. President Teddy Roosevelt invited him to the White House twice, and he was preparing to run for governor of Iowa when he was struck down by kidney failure. He died at his home on December 17, 1917 . He was just 39 years old.
Gotch’s official record was 154-6. He never lost a fall the last seven years of his career, winning 82 straight matches. He was featured in Police Gazette and boxing and wrestling magazines for decades after his death, and is still mentioned from time to time today in various articles and books about sporting legends.