Scanned, proofed and corrected from the original edition for your reading pleasure. (Worth every penny!)
An excerpt from:
I. FRANK GOTCH - The World's Athletic Marvel
Being an Intimate Study of the Iowa Farmer and Financier,
Both as a Man and the Wrestling Wonder of the Age
Who is there of this great American reading public that has not at some time or other run across one of those pleasing little fables about the country boy who, fresh from the plow or dragged at a moment's notice from his work in the field, downed the chap from the city at some athletic contest? How often can you remember reading one of those stories, and don't you remember, too, that you sympathized with the yokel as against the haughty fellow of city birth and breeding, who was so widely heralded about the countryside as being the greatest thing that ever happened?
Of course, everybody has read these stories at some time or other. Of course, even if you didn't believe the story, you believed in it, and when the climax came and the haughty athlete from town was humbled in defeat, you believed in the sentiment and gloated over the victory and the "city feller's" humiliation.
Doubtless there has been much truth in some of these yarns. Perhaps the city chap was a braggart and didn't really amount to so much as an athlete, and perhaps the farmer boy never could amount to anything if pitted against the real sort of an athlete at the latter's favorite game, but at the same time the world loves to extend its sympathy to the underdog in such case, and always, in the story book, the farmer boy is the underdog.
Coming right down to the facts, there is one farmer boy in this country, now grown into a man—and what a man!—who maybe was the hero of some of these tales. If he wasn't he would have been simply an ideal hero for a yarn of that character. He is champion catch-as-catch-can wrestler of the world now, and his name is Frank Albert Gotch, a farmer lad from Humboldt, Iowa, perhaps the greatest athlete America has yet produced, certainly the greatest wrestler.
Though a champion and something of a man of the world now, he is still a farmer at heart, for all of his great fortune— and he has accumulated much through thrifty habits contracted down on that old Iowa farm—is invested in lands in the corn State which he calls home.
Back in 1900, when wrestling was not nearly as popular in the Middle West as it is at the present time, and when wrestlers were looked upon with a great deal of suspicion by the average man, the wrestler being qualified along with the crafty second-story man and porch climber, Martin ("Farmer") Burns, then one of the best heavyweights in the country, began to circulate stories about a wonderful young fellow he had "discovered" out in Iowa and for whom he predicted the most brilliant future. His name was Gotch, and he said he intended to make a champion of the world out of him if it took him the rest of his life.
It didn't take Burns that long, because on the night of April 3, 1908, Burns saw his ambition realized. That night, or rather at an early hour the following morning, Gotch defeated George Hackenschmidt, the "Russian Lion," after two hours of a peculiar struggle, and carried off the title from that famous exhibition athlete.
A little over one year later a new Gotch, fully 100 per cent, better than he was when he defeated Hackenschmidt, successfully defended his title against Yussiff Mahmout, the latest "Terrible Turk" to come to this country. It was Gotch's showing in that match and the work he did on the mat immediately after that convinced many good judges of the wrestling game that the beau ideal champion had arrived.
Though even Gotch himself does not keep an intimate account of the happenings of his career in detail, he can tell you offhand that it was in a match on May 23, 1908, when he defeated Tom Jenkins in Kansas City in a catch-as-catch-can match, that he became champion of his own country. At least he was considered to be the best man in America, Jenkins being the only man at that time who was considered to have the slightest chance with him.
Since that time, with the exception of exactly sixteen days in December of that year, the Iowa farmer had held almost unquestioned sway. It is true that many men have come up in the meantime, but none of them were thought to be a serious contender for Gotch's title. I am speaking now merely of the American wrestlers.