Frank Gotch and his mentor Farmer Burns are two gentlemen that often get ignored when people talk about wrestling or submission grappling. So today we are going to fill your tiny heads with a vast amount of knowledge and an accompanying documentary about the legendary Frank Gotch.
Frank Gotch met Farmer Burns in late 1899 and by then Farmer Burns was known as a wrestling master, who would eventually have over six thousand matches during his lifetime. At the time, Gotch was a spectator in the crowd during a wrestling show. Burns was one of the wrestlers participating in the show and he was offering $25 to anyone that could last 15 minute with him, without getting pinned.
The 21 year old Gotch took on the challenge and after 11 hard-fought minutes lost by pin. After the match Burns declared "Ladies and gentlemen, I have never met an amateur wrestler the like of this fellow in my life. If he will go with me, I will make him champion of America in a few months."
Gotch had originally taken up wrestling as a teenager and used his skills in challenge matches and local fights. Very similar to the way Farmer Burns first learned the scientific art. Gotch’s best years were ahead of him under the tutelage of Farmer Burns. Gotch, was naturally gifted, but under the astute mind of Burns he became a Champion.
During Gotch’s short career, he had two main Rivals. The first being Champion Tom Jenkins, whom he won 5 of 8 matches with over his career. After retirement, Jenkins became boxing and wrestling coach at West Point for 37 years.
Another one of Gotch’s rivals was George Hackenschmidt of Estonia. A former body builder turned Champion wrestler, was feared by many and was known as the Russian Lion. Hackenschmidt had beaten the best in Europe as well as Tom Jenkins and in 1908, he took on Gotch. After over two hours, Gotch’s skill wore on the Russian Lion and he conceded after the first fall. Gotch was now heavyweight champion of the world. This was the peak of his career and he went on to have several legendary fights after this. His wrestling prowess made him an overnight superstar and celebrity. In 1914 he retired with a 154-6 record and he accumulated an 88 consecutive win streak. For two years after his retirement he toured with the circus offering $250.00 to any man who could last fifteen minutes with him without getting pinned or submitted - and of course he never once had to pay. Just two years after his retirement he fell ill and a year later on December 17, 1917 he died of kidney failure in his hometown of Humboldt Iowa.
The Burns and Gotch legacy is one of the oldest in American wrestling and submission grappling. They, in my opinion are by far the most influential in wrestling and their influence helped Iowa become the hotbed of wrestling for years to come. To this day many consider Gotch the greatest wrestler that has ever lived.
Take a gander at the mini documentary about Frank Gotch below.
On a semi related note this weekend Jordan Burroughs defeated David Taylor in the U.S. Open Finals. He had an incredible come from behind win which you can view here. Burroughs must win the U.S. World Team trials on May 31 in Wisconsin to compete in his fourth consecutive world championships. He may rematch Taylor and the months are quickly counting down to the Olympics. So stay tuned and learn some history in the meantime!