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100 Years Ago Today: Gotch vs Hackenschmidt 2 and The Birth of American Amateur Wrestling

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A hundred years ago on September 4th 1911, the biggest rematch of the time in Professional Wrestling would take place in Comiskey Ball Park,  Chicago, Illinois. Frank Gotch, a wiry farmboy from Iowa had beaten world champion George Hackenschmidt of Estonia in 1908 by submission after more than 2 hours of grappling in their first meeting which had also taken place in Chi-Town.

Before the first match Hackenschmidt - nicknamed The Russian Lion - was thought to be unstoppable with his Greco Roman background and super human strength, and a chest crushing Bearhug that was feared by Wrestlers the world over. Like Rampage Jackson, Hack wanted his belt back and as Brent Brookhouse pointed out recently, he was coming into the match injured.

The first time they fought and Gotch won, it was front page news across the nation. The build up to the second fight was even bigger and Gotch finished Hackenschmidt in quick fashion this time around. The first match had invigorated the collegiate wrestling programs in East Coast states and by the time of the rematch Universities in states such as Iowa and Pennsylvania had Wrestling programs well underway. The popularity of the two at the time can not be undersold, and with Gotch winning and retaining the title on American soil catalyzed athletic clubs and YMCAs to adopt wrestling classes as part of their programs.

The rematch wasn't without controversy because of the injury and the quick defeat, but its influence on American Amateur Folkstyle Wrestling - then known as American Catch As Catch Can - was paramount and the legacy of successful American Amateur Wrestlers in Mixed Martial Arts can be traced back to this significant match.