Martin Burns was born in a log cabin in Cedar County , Iowa , in 1861 and took up wrestling as a teenager. He traveled the Midwest , taking on all comers in carnivals and at impromptu athletic events. Eventually, he began earning money as people paid to watch him wrestle, and he became a professional wrestler.
Burns is considered by many to be the father of American wrestling. Due to his rural background, he was called “Farmer Burns” and claimed the world title for many years. He once estimated he competed in over 6,000 matches, and claimed he lost just six.
He discovered the great Frank Gotch and served as his trainer as Gotch became the greatest wrestler of his era. He also worked with other great wrestlers, including Earl Caddock and Jack Reynolds.
Burns developed a national mail order wrestling business and then a highly successful wrestling school in Omaha . In 1921, he helped coach Cedar Rapids Washington to the very first Iowa high school state wrestling tournament title. He died in 1937.