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Posts Tagged ‘GOTCH: An American Hero’

City of Humboldt to honor Frank Gotch with a statue in park

Posted by flairwhoooooo on January 6, 2011

HUMBOLDT, Iowa – The hometown of world wrestling champion Frank Gotch, one of the nation’s best-known athletes in the early part of the 20th Century, is making plans to honor its most famous citizen with a statue to be placed in Bicknell Park. The park occupies the site where Gotch trained for his most important match.

The project is being run by a not-for-profit organization called the Frank Gotch Statue Committee.

“Frank Gotch was arguably the top athlete in America in the 1908 to 1915 era,” said co-chair Steve Reimers, a lifelong resident of the city located in the northwestern part of the state. “Frank brought great recognition to this town and to all of Iowa. Many of us feel it is time to pay a special tribute to Gotch and the great legacy he left behind.”

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Bicknell Park was the site of Gotch’s training camp prior to his epic match with George Hackenschmidt, known as The Russian Lion, on September 3, 1911, in Chicago. Gotch set up camp by the small bluff on the Des Moines River and spectators flocked to watch the world champion in training. Sports reporters from around the nation converged on Humboldt the month prior to the match. One reporter estimated that one day there were nearly 2,000 fans down by the park watching Gotch train.

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The camp consisted of a large ring, handball courts and an area for wall pulleys and punching bags. Several of the top wrestler in the world came to the camp at various times to serve as workout partners for Gotch. His training was supervised by Farmer Burns, considered the greatest professional wrestling instructor of all time.

Bicknell Park was donated to the city in 1920. The project will include a brick walkway around the pedestal the statue stands on. The statue will be made of bronze and stand eight-foot tall, depicting Gotch in a familiar pose with hands on hips while attired in a wrestling uniform. It will be placed on a two-foot high pedestal, with accompanying information on his career and life in Humboldt.

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Gotch was undefeated during his seven-year rein as world champion and won his last 88 matches in a row. He owned a considerable amount of land in Iowa and Minnesota and was active in the community in a variety of ways. He was part owner of an automobile dealership in Humboldt and served on several civic boards. He was even being considered to star in a movie in Hollywood and the Republican Party of Iowa was looking at him as a possible candidate for governor in 1920.

But Gotch fell ill in early 1917 and died on December 16, 1917, at the age of 39, of kidney failure. His death was front-page news all around the nation and an estimated 2,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried in a large mausoleum in Union Cemetery, two miles west of town.

According to the author Mac Davis, in the book 100 Greatest Sports Heroes, Gotch was a bigger star than any boxer or baseball player. “As the idol of millions in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Gotch made wrestling a big-time sport in his day. Babies had been named in his honor, as had buildings, toys, farm implements and a hundred other things. The word ‘Gotch’ was a synonym for quality and strength.”

The statue committee is comprised of various members of the Humboldt community, as well as two noteworthy “outsiders.” Frank Gotch III is the grandson of the legendary wrestler and currently lives near Austin, Texas. He has agreed to serve as an honorary member. Mike Chapman is one of the nation’s leading wrestling historians and the author of 22 books, including three on Gotch. One of them, Gotch: An American Hero, has been purchased by Empire Film Group in Los Angeles and is under development as a major motion picture.

“We are delighted that the grandson of Frank Gotch and a well-known historian are helping us with the project,” said Reimers.

Other members of the committee are Ron Wasoba, former Humboldt High School wrestling coach, who is co-chair; Tonya Harklau, former executive director of the Humboldt Area Chamber of Commerce; Maurey Abens, Chad Beaman, Jana Bratland, Ken Bratland, Kent Clendenen, Todd Lee, Phil Monson and Bruce Reimers, a former NFL football player from Humboldt who played in a Super Bowl as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals.

“In an effort to make this project all inclusive, we are reaching out to the citizens of Humboldt, and also to wrestling fans across the state and the entire nation,” said Wasoba. “Frank Gotch helped created a strong interest in wrestling in America in the early 1900s. We believe many fans across the nation will want to be a part of this effort to honor his memory and his impact on the sport, both amateur and professional.”

“I think part of the reason this is such a wonderful project is because Frank Gotch had a very powerful love of this community,” said Chapman. “After he became world champion, many promoters and managers tried to get him to leave Iowa and move to the big city. But he never was tempted. He told them he was born an Iowa farmer, was raised an Iowa farmer and would die an Iowa farmer. And he was true to his word.”

There are various levels of support offered to donors, beginning at $125 and going up to $3,000, and beyond. Anyone wishing more information should contact the Frank Gotch Project, c/o Friends of the Park, PO Box 247, Humboldt, Iowa, 50548, or call Tonya Harklau at 515-332-3285 (or harklauj@goldfieldaccess.net) for further details. Donations are tax deductible to the extent offered by the law

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2010 MWR Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Mike Chapman

Posted by flairwhoooooo on January 1, 2011

History should
be studied
because it
is essential to
individuals and
to society, and
because it
harbors beauty.

Pro Wrestling fans are passionate about their love of the drama and action inside the squared circle. In a sport where the desire for us, the fans to know more about our heroes and villains more than ever, we are very fortunate to have websites, shoot interviews, movies and documentaries to fall back on.

Growing up I dreamed of a Hall of Fame for the stars that I saw in publications such as Pro Wrestling Illustrated. Wrestling needed a Hall of Fame just as baseball has Cooperstown New York and the NFL Canton Ohio. Sure, many magazines had a Hall of Fame on paper but I wanted more. I wanted to see the championship belts, photos and posters from past shows.

To be honest, coming from a boom time for pro wrestling in the 80’s with “Rock and Wrestling”, I still lived in a small town in the Midwest where there were still many that did not understand my love for wrestling. I thought that if a Hall of Fame was to exist I would have to make my way to New York or California to see such a wonderful museum.

Thankfully, we have one of the leading authorities on wrestling history in Mike Chapman living right here in the Midwest. Mike took his passion for amateur and pro wrestling and parlayed his talent to provide wrestling fans around the world a chance to gather to celebrate the accomplishments of our heroes.

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Mike and Bev pose for a photo in the ring in the Pro Wing of the Museum. (Photo Courtesy of Mike Chapman’s website)

Now fans young and old can come together to look back and remember the stars of yesterday at the The Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Waterloo Iowa. Mike Chapman founded the museum in 1998. With several years of hard work he retired from the museum on October 31, 2009 to devote full time to his new magazine, Iowa History Journal, and to write books.

Mike has represented the Midwest and the wrestling world with class and honor by promoting the sport as a public speaker, an author of 21 books (14 about wrestling) and his work has appeared in dozens of national and regional magazines.

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In his books wrestling fans are able to take a trip back into time to look back at the incredible careers of Frank Gotch in “Frank Gotch: His Life and Legacy” and one of my personal favorite wrestlers and human beings Dan Hodge in “Oklahoma Shooter: The Dan Hodge Story”.
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Fans of today are well aware of the talents that the collegiate wrestling world has as many in wrestling such as Bill Miller, Jack Brisco, Bob Geigel Brock Lesnar, Ken Shamrock, Steve Williams, Bobby Lashley, LeRoy McGuirk and of course Kurt Angle . Each of these men have all become important wrestlers in the pro ring at one time or another.

If some of these names are people that you may not know, I urge you to check out the museum or look them up, each a champion in their own right.

Let’s look at just a small part of his resume.

Mike is the founder of W.I.N. Magazine, considered by many the nation’s top amateur wrestling publication; the WIN Memorabilia Show, which draws 8,000 fans each year to the NCAA Championships.  Mike has been important in the jumpstarting the “Dan Hodge Trophy,” which goes each year to the top college wrestler in the United States. It has been called “the Heisman Trophy of wrestling.”

Mike has earned the respect of many in the sport by being named in six Hall of Fames the AAU National Wrestling Hall of Fame. In 2002 he  received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cauliflower Alley Club (CAC), an organization of boxers, wrestlers and movie actors. In 2007 he received the Order of Merit for lifetime achievement from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the President’s Award from the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association.

As a reporter, he has attended 38 NCAA wrestling tournaments, two Olympics and two World Championships. He has won numerous awards for journalism and writing. He has been named National Wrestling Writer of the Year five times, by four different amateur wrestling organizations.

He has met and interviewed such people as Ronald Reagan, Muhammad Ali, Robert Redford, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk from TV fame), Denny Miller (Tarzan actor and star of “Wagon Train”) and many other famous stars of movies and sports.

Mike has appeared on numerous TV shows –including the networks ESPN, A&E, Fox Sports, Iowa Public Television and Fox and Friends. He has been the guest on over 200 radio talk shows. He has produced three wrestling videos and has two screenplays in Hollywood, including “GOTCH: An American Hero.” The movie rights are owned by Empire Film Group and it is currently in pre-production.

As an athlete, he competed in wrestling, judo, sombo and bench press contests. He once bench pressed 440 pounds at a bodyweight of 205.

I first had the pleasure of meeting Mike Chapman in Newton Iowa, the original home of the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum several years ago during an annual Hall of Fame. Several of my heroes from years past where in attendance in 2005 along with theInduction of Harley Race to the HOF.

Terry Funk, Verne Gagne and Larry Hennig were just a few that where there to sign autographs for the each and every one of the fans in attendance. Still one of the fondest memories that I had of that trip to Newton Iowa was how nice this guy that worked for the museum was towards Dubray and I. He spoke to us just like he had known us all of his life, telling stories of the displays and the posters on the wall.

We left that day in Newton with the perception that he just worked there and enjoyed what he done. I would later find out that that worker was none other than Mike Chapman, the founder of the museum, a man who had rubbed elbows former World Champions in Boxing and wrestling, Presidents of the United States, and some of the top Hollywood stars.

At Mike’s website this quote was stated

The mission of the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum (DGIWIM) is to preserve, maintain and promote the long and illustrious heritage of mankind’s oldest sport in a manner which will benefit the sport, educate and entertain the public, and to inspire youth to dream big and work hard.

Mission accomplished Mike, this Lifetime Achievement Award is a thank you from the fans of the Midwest and around the world.

Editors Note: Please come back to MWR in the future for updates on the progress Mike latest project as he has been working with a committee in Humboldt, Iowa – the hometown of Frank Gtoch – to build an eight-foot statue of the world heavyweight champion (1908-1915) in the center of town.

If all goes as plan we hope to cover this historic occasion at Missouri Wrestling Revival
Please take the time to check out more information of Mike Chapman at his website here.

Fans of wrestling should check out the Dan Gable International Wrestling Institute and Museum website here and make plans to see it live in 2011.

Brian Kelley
Missouri Wrestling Revival

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