HUMBOLDT, Iowa – Curran Jacobs of East Lansing, Michigan, and Shayna Baszler of Los Angeles were among the big winners Sunday, July 3, at the first ever Frank Gotch World Catch Championships held in the hometown of the legendary world champion from the early 1900s.
A total of 21 wrestlers from various states and Canada participated. Jacobs won the 181-199-pound class when one competitor, Travis Warner (aka Newaza) failed to make weight and another wrestler withdrew at the last minute. However, Jacobs and Warner faced off in a special match at the end of the tournament. Both had won other major catch titles and this was a showdown that had been anticipated in the catch wrestling world for some time. Jacobs, a former star at Michigan State University, scored a takedown early in the bout after some serious sparring and worked Warner onto his back and held him tight for a pin at the 2:47 mark.
Jacobs won the first CWA tournament in Los Angeles in 2104 and was presented with the Frank Gotch Award as the outstanding wrestler. Warren was the winner in the West Coach King of Catch competition in 2015.
Baszler, who has a strong pedigree in combat sports, dispatched her two foes in the women’s division in quick fashion, scoring a submission over Drew Persson of Canada in the first match and a pin over Laura Anderson of Los Angeles in the finals.
Other champions in the Gotch tournament were Chris Morales of Los Angeles in the 220-plus division; Travis Wiuff, of Rochester, Minnesota, in the 200-219 division; Anthony Pacheck of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in the 160-169 division; and Matt Tran of South Carolina in the 140-159-pound class.
A crowd estimated at over 300 by a Humboldt official saw the meet. The day before, a crowd of 185 watched a seminar in Bicknell Park.
The tournament was sponsored by the Catch Wrestling Alliance, under the direction of Dr. Raul Ramirez. Scott Casber, founder of Takedown Wrestling Radio and a nationally-known announcer who has worked NCAA tournaments and top-level world meets, was the announcer.
Special guests included Bill Smith, 1952 Olympic champion and a five-time national champion (two in college and three in freestyle); Roy Wood, the head coach at the legendary Wigan Snake Pit School in Wigan, England, and his daughter, Andrea; Bob Siddens, the most successful high school coach in Iowa history with 11 state team titles and who coached the fabled Dan Gable, and Sonny Onoo, former world champion kickboxer and pro wrestling trainer and manager.
“It was a fabulous day for catch wrestling,” said Mike Chapman, author of 16 books on wrestling and founder of WIN magazine, the Dan Hodge Trophy and the Dan Gable Museum in Waterloo, Iowa. “We had a very well-run event, with an enthusiastic crowd, right in the heart of wrestling territory. The event rated front page coverage from local newspapers leading up to it, and the City of Humboldt was solidly behind the event, from the very start.”
Ramirez said he was delighted with the event and is hoping to come back next year.
“The mayor of Humboldt was at the seminar Saturday afternoon and at the tournament on Sunday, and he was very pleased with everything,” said Ramirez. “We are already talking about making this an annual event.”
Plans could even include a regional qualifying tournament, he said.
“The fact that they (the CWA leader) are trying to keep this tradition alive and have a rebirth of this specific type of wrestling is very unique,” Mayor Dan Scholl told Chad Thompson, a reporter with the Fort Dodge Messenger newspaper. “It’s a great honor for the city to be recognized in this way and be associated with the history of catch wrestling.”
On Saturday, the day before the meet, Ramirez and Jon Strickland of South Carolina held a seminar in Bicknell Park, where a large statue of Frank Gotch looms over the landscape. It is also the site of Gotch’s famous training camp in 1911, while preparing for his epic match with George Hackenschmidt, The Russian Lion.
Chapman opened the seminar with a short speech on the history of the Gotch training camp and told the audience that crowds of up to 2,000 came to watch Gotch rain.
“This city and this park are a big part of catch wrestling history, and this is a marvelous way to bring it all full circle. I really want to compliment Dr. Ramirez and the CWA for having the vision, and the courage to bring this event to Humboldt.”
At both the seminar and the tournament, fans were invited to browse at four tables full of Gotch memorabilia, and were able to purchase special tee shirts with Gotch’s image and the CWA logo.
The top three placewinners in each division were presented with medals with Gotch’s image, hung on a ribbon, and sponsored by iawrestle.
The top three placewinners:
140-159 pounds – First: Matt Tran, South Carolina; Second: Javier Garcia, Los Angeles; Third: Adam LaPorte, Canada.
160-179 – First: Anthony Pacheck, Iowa; Second: Keanu Huete, Los Angeles; Third: Johnny Boyd, South Carolina.
180-199 – Curran Jacobs, Michigan; no other contestants (one withdrew, one failed to make weight).
200-219 – Travis Wiuff, Minnesota; Second: Ned Morales, Los Angeles; Third; Nick Badger, Arkansas.
220-plus – Chris Morales, Los Angeles; Second: Nicholas Caggla, New Jersey; Third: James Bunn, North Carolina.
Women’s Division (no weight limit) – First: Shayna Baszler, Los Angeles; Second: Laura Anderson, Los Angeles; Third: Drew Persson, Canada.
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