National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Inductee: Joe Stecher

Born on April 5, 1896 , in Dodge, Nebraska , Joe Stecher is generally regarded as one of the four or five greatest wrestlers of all time.

He was just twenty years old when, as a virtual unknown, he upset Charley Cutler in Omaha to win the world title on July 4, 1915 . After the victory, his hometown of Dodge held an appreciation day for Joe, with nearly 5,000 fans and the governor of Nebraska on hand to honor him.

Known for his tremendous leg strength and scissors hold, Stecher was a fierce competitor with a great knowledge of the sport, and a true legend in the history of sports. He was such a good all-around athlete that he tried out for the major leagues of baseball and was offered a contract by Philadelphia .

Stecher won his first 51 pro matches in a row and wrestled over 500 matches before retiring in 1934. He held the world title on three separate occasions, losing it for the final time in 1928. He was one of the best known athletes of the 1920s, standing alongside such legends as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Ed “Strangler” Lewis.

He died in 1974 in St. Cloud , Minnesota . The wall pulleys and punching bags he used to train with in Dodge in the 1920s are on display in the pro wing of the International Wrestling Institute and Museum.