Nekoosa in Wood County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Ed “Strangler” Lewis
Adopting the name Strangler Lewis, he is the only man to be recognized on five different occasions as heavyweight champion of the world. For twenty years he challenged and defeated all contenders. His greatest asset was his famed headlock which he pitted against Joe Stecher’s famed scissors hold, to capture the crown in 1920.
He retired to a life of youth work, devoting his time to working with underprivileged boys.
A member of the Athletic Hall of Fame, Lewis’s name is carved in the record books along with other great names like Hackenschmidt, Londos, Stecher, and Caddock.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Charity & Public Work • Sports. A significant historical year for this entry is 1890.
Location. 44° 19.434′ N, 89° 53.38′ W. Marker is in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, in Wood County. Marker is at the intersection of Prospect Avenue (State Highway 73) and 9th Street, on the left when traveling north on Prospect Avenue. Vilas Avenue is behind the marker, which is on a traffic island. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Nekoosa WI 54457, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Veterans Memorial (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Point Basse (about 500 feet away); Nekoosa War Memorial (approx. 0.8 miles away); a different marker also named Point Basse (approx. 1.7 miles away); Point Bas (approx. 1.8 miles away); John Edwards Jr. (approx. 1.9 miles away); John Jones 2nd Burial Site (approx. 2˝ miles away); John Edwards Jr. Office Building (approx. 2˝ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Nekoosa.
More about this marker. This is a Wisconsin Registered Landmark – Number 14.
Regarding Ed “Strangler” Lewis.
Birth: June 30, 1890 Nekoosa, Wisconsin.
Death: August 7, 1966 Muskogee, Oklahoma.
Burial: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia; Section 53, Grave 3546.
Ed Strangler Lewis, who achieved professional wrestling fame during the 1920s as a man-wrecking powehouse, spent the last 25 years of his life teaching young boys to build their lives on a firm religious foundation. Lewis, whose real name was Robert H. Friedrich, died [Sunday] in Muskogee, Oklahoma in the Veterans Administration hospital following an extended illness. He was 76. He was a huge, barrel-chested man whose neck was larger than most men’s thighs. He ruled the heavyweight wrestling ring from 1920 until 1932 when he lost his title to Gus Sonnenburg, a former Dartmouth All-America football player. In a professional wrestling career which spanned 44 years, Lewis earned more than $3 million and lost only 33 of his 6,200 matches. He earned one of wrestling’s biggest purses in the Sonnenburg bout. His take was $25,000.
Lewis became devoutly religious after temporarily losing his eyesight because of trachoma during the height of his career. A friend spent hours reading the Bible to him. He never hesitated to credit the return of his eyesight to Divine intervention. He lost his eyesight again some 40 years later, but found the trial allowed him to gain in spirit. Lewis rose in the peak of his profession during an age when America took her sports heroes seriously, and he shared the limelight with such men as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden, and Bobby Jones. It was a day when professional wrestling was a test of endurance and strength — not showmanship — and crucial matches often lasted hours before one of the men could gain the advantage. Lewis fought one of his most famous bouts against Nebraskan Joe Stecher at Omaha about 1920. The bruising match of brute force lasted more than five hours before being declared a draw.
By his own admission, Lewis blew most of the money he made wrestling [on ill-fated business ventures] but said that in 1940 he decided to “go the straight and narrow way.”
Source: excerpt from obituary.
His first remembered wrestling match came about in a somewhat unusual manner. He was a member of the Nekoosa baseball team which went to Pittsville to play a game. The receipts from the game were so small that the Nekoosa team had no means by which to return home. A wrestling match was arranged between young Friedricks and the pride of the Pittsville area of that time, a man by the name of Brown. Young Bob won the match and so incapacitated Brown that he needed medical attention.
Source: excerpt from Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune; July 31, 1956.
Credits. This page was last revised on December 30, 2019. It was originally submitted on July 2, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 5,879 times since then and 455 times this year. Last updated on August 2, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on July 2, 2007, by Keith L of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. • J. J. Prats was the editor who published this page.