Iowa Cameo On ‘Biography’

Cedar Rapids Gazette – January 11, 1999
By Gus Schrader

Maybe you missed what we newspaper types call “local angles” to significant stories in 1998.

Let’s start with Jesse Ventura, the new governor of our wonderful sister state Minnesota. I hope you were able to watch “Biography” on the A&E channel Dec. 30 when Ventura’s interesting life story was presented in hourlong fashion.

The man who got him started in pro wrestling was Bob Geigel, a University of Iowa graduate from Algona who was a heavyweight wrestler for the Hawkeyes, then went on to a long career in the pro circuit. When Bob grew tired of being bounced around tank-town mats, he joined Gust correct Karras, the Kansas City promoter. He took over the operation after Karras died.

Speaking of Geigel reminds me of the last time he wrestled (as an amateur) Verne Gagne, NCAA champion from Minnesota. The two had met eight times during their collegiate careers, with Gagne winning them all. The ninth time came in the finals of the National AAU tournament at Coe’s Moray Eby Fieldhouse.

This match was dynamite. The two struggled with might and main with very close scoring. When it was over, the referee huddled with the scorers, then came out and raised Geigel’s hand. The crowd, which included many Geigel boosters from Iowa, went wild and practically carried their hero to the dressing room. Only then did the officials huddle again. They called the competitors back from their lockers, and this time came the sad announcement there had been an error in scoring and Gagne was the real champion.

The two men faced each other countless times on the pro circuit. I don’t know how those “matches” came out, but Gagne was the “national champion” (Midwest version at least) there, too, often using his famous “sleeper hold” that finished opponents.

Oh, one more thing about Ventura: The “Biography” show mentioned his mother was born in Iowa. Does anyone know what her maiden name was and what Iowa town or city she came from?

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