Earl Caddock has the very high honor of being the first great amateur wrestling champion to become a great professional champion, as well. 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. Caddock was discharged from the Army on June 1, 1919 and he returned to his career in wrestling. The World Heavyweight Championship had changed hands a few times while he was at war and was once again held by Joe Stecher. Earl returned to the ring after the war and continued his long sting of victories.
A match between the two was immediately set. On January 30, 1920, 14,000 fans packed Madison Square Garden in New York City to see Stecher defeat Caddock. This match was filmed by pioneer cinematographer Freeman Harrison Owens, and is currently the oldest surviving filming of a professional wrestling match. Video on YouTube
Caddock’s career continued successfully for the next few years but he wouldn’t be in another World Title match until 1921. In January of that year Caddock faced Ed Strangler Lewis for the championship. Caddock’s loss to Lewis in this match resulted in a near riot. Another title match in November against Stanislaus Zbyszko resulted in another failure to recapture the World Heavyweight Championship.
Earl Caddock’s final match took place on June 7, 1922. He lost his last bid to regain the World Heavyweight Title to Ed Lewis. 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.