World champion wrestler and northwest Iowa native Frank Gotch has been called the Michael Jordan of his era due to his celebrity status in the early 1900s.
A committee in Gotch’s hometown of Humboldt is raising money to build a bronze statue in the spot where Gotch trained for in a legendary match in 1911. Committee member Tonya Harklau says the land is now a park.
Thousands of people used to come and watch Gatch train there in Humboldt. The match between Gotch and George Hackenschmidt drew an estimated crowd of 30,000 fans to what was then the new baseball stadium in Chicago, Comiskey Park.
Harklau says Gotch had offers to live in Chicago and New York but chose to stay in Iowa. He’d been quoted as saying he was born and raised an Iowa farm boy and he’d die here, too, which he did.
Gotch won the heavyweight wrestling title in 1908 and never lost again, winning 88 consecutive matches before retiring in 1916 undefeated.
Harklau says Gotch was a world-renown celebrity and the proposed eight-foot tall statue wouldn’t be the first landmark to the wrestler. There’s a mausoleum in the cemetery where Gotch is buried and several of his personal items are on display in the town’s museum.
She says Gotch has been credited with laying the foundation for Iowa becoming one of the nation’s strongest wrestling states.
“He was one of the first athletes to be put on a sports trading card and also one of the first athletes to be used in commercial endorsements,” she says.
Donors will have their names engraved on a brick walkway that will surround the Gotch statue. Donations are tax deductible. For information, contact Harklau at (515) 332-3285 or [email protected].