A new book tells the story of the life and athletic career of Earl Caddock, one of the greatest wrestlers in American history who lived most of his life in Iowa and is buried in his adopted hometown of Walnut. Frank Gotch also plays a large role in the book.
CADDOCK: Walnut’s Wrestling Wonder, was written by Mike Chapman, noted wrestling author and historian, and published by Culture House Books of Newton, in cooperation with the city of Walnut.
Earl Caddock came off an Iowa farm to become a great amateur wrestler and then won the world heavyweight championship of professional wrestling, back when the sports was a true athletic contest. He was an AAU national champion, in 1914 and 1915, but the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics ended his amateur career.
With Frank Gotch of Humboldt, Iowa, acknowledged as the top athlete in America at the time, Caddock decided to follow Gotch into professional wrestling. On April 9, 1917, he took a perfect record of 79-0 (53-0 as an amateur and 26-0 as a pro) into the ring in Omaha to take on the world champion, Joe Stecher. After more than two hours of grueling wrestling, Earl Caddock emerged as the heavyweight champion of the world.
In 1919 and 1920, Caddock was one of the nation’s most popular athletes, standing alongside such legendary figures as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Jim Thorpe.
At the peak of his sports career, Caddock enlisted in the U.S. Army to fight in World War I and served gallantly in France as a doughboy, suffering lung damage from gas attacks. He returned to make his home in Walnut, Iowa. After three more years of wrestling, Caddock retired from the ring and began a successful career as a businessman in both Walnut and in Omaha.
“Earl Caddock was a devoted husband, father, Christian and high-successful businessman, as well as patriot and champion athlete,” said Chapman, who has written a total of 23 books, 15 on wrestling. “His story is both heroic and inspirational.”
“As mayor of Walnut, I am delighted that a book has finally been written about our most famous citizen,” said Gene Larsen in the foreword. “Though his fame was immense in the late teens and early 1920s, it has faded through the decades and I feel it is time that Walnut does something to keep his memory alive for future generations.”
Caddock is a member of the Des Moines Register Sports Hall of Fame. Sec Taylor, legendary sports editor of the Register and a personal friend of Caddock, once compared Caddock’s fame in Iowa to that of Nile Kinnick.
By winning the world title, “overnight Caddock became the toast of the entire state, “ wrote Taylor at the item of Caddock’s death, in 1950. “Perhaps no other athlete, not even Frank Gotch, caught the fancy and the imagination of the public as did Caddock, until the late Nile Kinnick, Iowa football player, came along.”
Nat Fleischer, considered the top boxing and wrestling writer of the first half of the 20th century, eulogized Caddock in his book, Milo to Londos: “He was an inspiration to the youth of America. During his entire career, he exemplified the best in American sports tradition. And when the history of wrestling is written…. I shall see that Earl Caddock’s name goes up near the top for his wrestling ability, and on top as the man who has done most for the uplift of wrestling in this country.”
The 88-page book includes 35 photos and newspaper articles, many not seen for 80 years, and Caddock’s complete professional record.
The cost is $7.95 plus $3 shipping and handling. It is available by ordering through Culture House, P.O. Box 293, Newton, IA 50208, or by calling 641-791-3072, or at the city hall in Walnut, Iowa.
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