Frank Gotch


Frank Gotch : biography

April 27, 1878 – December 16, 1917

Because of both his superior ability and his gift for self-promotion, Gotch became one of America’s greatest sports idols. He achieved a level of popularity similar to that formerly held by boxer John L. Sullivan and harness racehorse Dan Patch, and enjoyed later by such sports heroes of the Golden Age of Sports as boxing’s Jack Dempsey, baseball’s Babe Ruth, tennis’s Bill Tilden and golf’s Bobby Jones. This in turn made wrestling mainstream. Mac Davis wrote in 100 Greatest Sports Heroes, "As the idol of millions in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Gotch made wrestling a big-time sport in his day. He drew larger audiences than did the heavyweight champion of boxing when defending his title."Davis, Mac, 100 greatest sports heroes (Grosset & Dunlap, 1958), quoted in Chapman, Mike, From Gotch To Gable, A History of Wrestling in Iowa (University of Iowa, 1981), p. 9

Gotch’s first match against Hackenschmidt also remains perhaps the most famous wrestling encounter of all time.Chapman, Mike, Frank Gotch, World’s Greatest Wrestler, p. 3, 9.

There is a park named the Frank A. Gotch County Park, three miles south of Humboldt near his childhood farm, in homage to Gotch. The also sponsors the annual Frank Gotch Wrestling Tournament as well. Because of Gotch’s legacy, Iowa remains a wrestling stronghold at the high school and collegiate levels to this day.Chapman, Mike, From Gotch To Gable, p. 19; Chapman, Mike, Frank Gotch, World’s Greatest Wrestler, p. 132.

There is an extensive Frank Gotch collection in the Dan Gable Wrestling Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. On display are the wrestling shoes he wore into the ring in 1911 against Hackenschmidt, his Mason’s sword and leather scabbard, the roll-top desk that sat in his living room in Humboldt and many other rare items.

In addition, a film company currently holds the rights to the book Gotch: An American Hero, by Mike Chapman, and is actively in the process of making a movie based on the book.


For years one of America’s most eligible bachelors, Gotch married Gladys Oestrich on February 11, 1911. They had one son, Robert Frederick Gotch.


Gotch competed in an era when a championship wrestling match was the same as a championship prize fight: i.e., it was a major event for which the wrestlers went into training and which promoters publicized for weeks. Thus, he did not have a long career in terms of the number of matches wrestled. His mentor, Farmer Burns, and later champions Ed Lewis, the "Strangler," and Lou Thesz, each engaged in more than 6,000 matches in their careers. Gotch engaged in only 160, finishing with a record of 154 wins and only 6 losses. Of those six losses, however, two were in the first year of his career – to Dan McLeod and Farmer Burns – and three were to Tom Jenkins. His last defeat was to Fred Beell on December 1, 1906, when he had crashed head-first into an uncovered turnbuckle and been rendered nearly unconscious. He defeated Beell in seven rematches and never lost again until his retirement in 1913.

Gotch was, by all accounts, a superior wrestler possessing tremendous strength, lightning quickness, genuine agility, cat-like reflexes, impeccable technique, superb ring generalship, a mastery of the use of leverage, and a full knowledge of wrestling holds, counterholds and strategy. He was always in the best of condition and possessed both enormous courage and an indomitable will to win, ever ready to match his heart, his gameness, against any man in the world. He was highly aggressive but always kept his cool. Critics saw in him both the strength of the old school of wrestling and the skill of the new, “as agile as a cat in his manoeuvers” and having “the grappling sport down to such science that he had assumed a rank all by himself.”Fleischer, Nat, From Milo to Londos, p. 77.

Gotch’s measurements for his 1911 victory over Hackenschmidt were: Age – 33; Weight – 204 pounds; Height – 5′, 11"; Reach – 73"; Biceps – 17.5"; Forearm – 14"; Neck – 18"; Chest – 45"; Waist – 34"; Thigh – 22"; Calf – 18".Fleischer, Nat, From Milo to Londos, p. 178.