Gus Sonnenberg Captures World Championship

Associated Press – January 4, 1929

BOSTON – Gus Sonnenberg, Dartmouth football star, won the heavyweight wrestling championship of the world from Ed (Strangler) Lewis here tonight, when the latter was disqualified after refusing to return to the ring after being butted out seven times.

Sonnenberg won the first fall with his famous “flying tackle” in 29 minutes and 46 seconds. When the wrestlers returned to the ring, they battled each other for about five minutes, with the champion on the offensive. Then Sonnenberg started butting Lewis in the abdomen. The champion fell or crawled out of the ring seven times. Referee Leon Burbank warned Lewis each time he went outside and finally started to count on him. After the seventh butt, Lewis failed to step back in before the count of ten and Burbank awarded the decision to Sonnenberg. The time of the fall was eight minutes and 20 seconds.

A crowd of 20,000, which taxed the Boston Garden to its capacity, received the decision enthusiastically and tendered Sonnenberg a wild ovation when he left the ring.

Sonnenberg had gained the first fall after breaking away from a series of vicious headlocks applied by Lewis in rapid succession.

To that point Lewis had carefully avoided offering his abdomen as a target for Sonnenberg’s butting. As the latter broke the fourth headlock, Lewis stood upright, regained his breath, and before he had a chance to step back or aside, Sonnenberg sprang.

Sonnenberg butted his stomach mercilessly and, as Lewis squirmed in agony, grabbed him by both legs and flung him to the mat. He had Lewis’ shoulders touching before the champion could make a defensive move.

Previous to this fall, Lewis indicated that he intended to try to regain his title by downing the challenger with his famous headlock. He moved about Sonnenberg, stepping sideways with an arm guarding his side, and tried to work this hold at every opportunity.

Sonnenberg tried all his other moves during the early stages of the match and set himself to launch his “flying tackle” when the champion eluded all else. When his chance came, he appeared in distress from the frightful pressure which Lewis had applied to his head.

His actions evidently deceived Lewis, who then gave him his first opportunity to use his butting and tackling tactics.

When the wrestlers returned to the ring after their rest period, Lewis was extremely cautious. He sparred with Sonnenberg for fully five minutes and then tripped the challenger to the mat, where he applied a headlock. Sonnenberg freed himself with a desperate squirm and got an arm lock on the champion.

Sonnenberg tried a headlock and then another armlock before starting his butting attack. The first butt, which struck Lewis in the pit of the stomach, knocked him out of the ring. As he stepped back in, Sonnenberg met him with another butt and Lewis crawled out of the ropes.

This action was repeated five times more before the referee counted the champion out. After the referee raised Sonnenberg’s arm as a gesture of victory, Paul Bowser – promoter of the title bout – came into the ring to present him with the bejewelled championship belt, awarded to Lewis when he defeated Joe Stecher for the title last year and which he posted as forfeit against his defeat.

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