Earl Caddock

("Man of a Thousand Holds")

Walnut, Iowa



Born: 18 February 1888
Birth Place: near Huron, South Dakota
Died: 25 August 1950
Awards: 3 AAU National Championships




Earl Caddock

       Born on February 18, 1888 , on a farm near Huron, South Dakota , Earl's family moved to Iowa when he was two years old. He began wrestling as an Iowa farm boy and won three AAU national titles. He captured the 175-pound and heavyweight titles in 1915. He was undefeated as an amateur.

      Caddock began professional wrestling in 1915 with great success. He trained with Frank Gotch and Farmer Burns and won his first 61 professional matches in a row. He captured the world heavyweight title on April 9, 1917 , with a stirring victory over Joe Stecher in Omaha . The country eagerly awaited a Caddock-Stecher rematch, but World War I intervened and Earl signed up to fight, seeing considerable front-line action with the infantry in France .

     The next great conflict that America took part in was called at the time “the war to end all wars.” Un fortunately, those words were not true when spoken back in 1919.

     In 1917, the heavyweight champion of the world was Earl Caddock, a handsome young man who was raised on a farm near Walnut, Iowa. He won three AAU national titles in the years 1915-1916 (winning two weights in 1916), and was never beaten in 53 amateur bouts. He turned professional at the advice of the legendary Frank Gotch, who had been his hero.

     Like Tillman, Caddock felt the need to enlist in the Army after seeing his country involved in World War I. He rejected an officer’s commission. “I’m no better than any of these other boys,” he said at the time and wound up fighting in foxholes in France.
“With the war on, Caddock, one of the first to enlist, went overseas where he showed the same mettle as a warrior that he did as an athlete,” wrote famed ring historian Nat Fleischer.

     The United States entered the war in 1917 and before the draft was in effect Caddock, with his title and all, reported at the recruiting office and volunteered his services at the call of his countrymen. He was rejected after careful medical examination because of infected tonsils.
     This, however, did not deter Caddock for long. He left the same night for Rochester, Minnesota, called on the famed Mayo brothers at their sanitarium, and had them perform a tonsil operation, and then returned to Des Moines, Iowa, less than a week later and this time was accepted.
     A book could be written on the romance following this act. Caddock certainly conducted himself as a great example for the youth of the country and as a model for his profession. He was assigned to headquarters, doing duty in the soldiers’ camp near Des Moines.
    Influences got to work which caused Caddock to receive offers for a commission as first lieutenant and even as captain, but he steadfastly refused, claiming that he was no better than any of the recruits. He insisted that a private’s post was good enough for him and that attitude, combined with the fact that he was the world’s heavyweight wrestling king, made him a great favorite with the doughboys. Later, he was made a corporal, and still later he was promoted to sergeant, and he saw service in the thick of the war.
    "That’s how patriotic Caddock was,” continued Fleischer. “No finer example of true Americanism was ever found in the athletic ranks of our boys than in Earl Caddock. He was an inspiration to the youth of America. During his entire career, he exemplified the best in American sports traditions.”

    Jack Curley, one of the top promoters in sports history, agreed totally.  No finer man ever graced a roped square than Earl,” he said. “A true American, a splendid soldier, a great athlete and a fitting model for our boys to follow.”

     Earl returned to the ring after the war and continued his long sting of victories. He finally lost his title to Stecher in a sellout match in 1920 in Madison Square Garden before 14,000 fans. Known as the "Man of a Thousand Holds," Caddock spent most of his later life in Walnut, Iowa , and Omaha , Nebraska , and ran a very successful oil business. Both of his sons played college football in Iowa . He died on August 25, 1950 at the age of 62
    Caddock’s unselfish attitude and patriotism are very similar to that shown by Pat Tillman in the war against terrorism nearly 90 years later.