Chicago Sunday Tribune – November 30, 1913
by Ray C. Pearson
By aid of what is termed the “neck yoke” in wrestling parlance, Ed Lewis of Lexington, Ky., bids fair to become one of the greatest heavyweight wrestlers America ever has produced. It is not improbable that at some future date the crown so ably worn by Frank Gotch, the Humboldt, Ia., farmer, may rest on the head of the Kentuckian, for he is only a “kid” in years as well as in the mat game, and still has plenty of time to “grow.”
Lewis has forced his way into the limelight with great suddenness through clamping his new hold on the necks of many opponents, several of whom have appeared prominently in the wrestling game in the last few years. The last big match for the Kentuckian was a losing one, but not until after a struggle that lasted more than a hour and a half. His conqueror was Charley Cutler, the Chicagoan, and it is only proper to say that it is hard to fine a better man in the heavyweight ranks than this same Cutler.
Cutler has been in the game for several years and what he doesn’t know about the art is hardly worth knowing, but he is willing to admit that his struggle with Lewis was one of the toughest he ever encountered in any arena, made so by the now famous “neck yoke” as applied by the Kentuckian. Lewis scored a fall in his match with Cutler by use of the neck lock, and the punishment he inflicted is not likely to be forgotten by Charles. There were other times that Lewis tried to secure the hold and failed, and in these efforts there was more punishment for Cutler. Although the Chicago man won and deserves credit for his victory, it is worthy of note that Lewis nimbly left the ring after the bout, while Cutler, thoroughly exhausted, did not spurn assistance.
There are many who claim that Lewis’ new hold is of the strangle variety. The fact that it shuts off the breathing of an opponent does not, however, make it a “strangler,” for none of the rules of the game covers a grip that is secured in the way Lewis applies it from the back of the neck. It is far different from the strangle hold which long ago was barred because of its disastrous effects.
LEWIS DUBBED ‘STRANGLER’
Lewis has been dubbed “Strangler” Lewis by those who follow the mat sport, but not because of the “neck yoke,” as might be supposed. When he was in the primer of wrestling he gained some little fame by applying the original strangle hold to his opponents, and this, together with the fact that one of the most famous mat men the world ever knew was named “Strangler” Lewis, was responsible for the handle attached to his name. The history of the sport tells plenty about the original “Strangler,” Evan Lewis.
Although Lewis has really been in the game only about two years, he spent a great deal of his time experimenting on the hold which now promises to make him famous. He had gained a considerable knowledge of the regulation holds which are applied when the men are on the mat, and he set about to discover tactics that would give him an advantage while he was contesting with an opponent head to head in an effort to gain a grip that would bring an opponent to the floor on the defensive. He discovered the neck yoke, which he calls a neck or head lock. First he tried the play for the hold with his right arm, but changed to the left when he discovered he could apply greater leverage that way.
FAMOUS HOLD PAVES WAY
Lewis does not secure his falls with the neck yoke. It is simply part of the system which he had worked out to pin an opponent’s shoulders to the mat. He secures the hold while standing. His first move is to get an opponent’s right arm down in front of him and when he gets this position he places his left arm underneath that of his opponent from the outside. From this position he reaches his left arm up around the neck and then clamps on the lock with his right hand and forearm. It is next to impossible for an opponent to break out of the grip once it is securely locked, and the harder the man on whom it has been applied tries to pull out of it the farther his chain is forced down onto his chest.
Lewis does not need to hurry his man once the hold is locked on, for at most any time he can bring him to the mat. There is no doubt but that when a man’s chin is forced down onto his chest his breathing is greatly handicapped, and so Lewis can afford to take his time.
THEN APPLIES BODY SCISSORS
Gradually Lewis forces an opponent nearer to the mat, then, quickly as a cat, he releases the neck and, with a flying fall, throws his right leg over his opponent’s body, the left being underneath, forming a scissors across the body hold. He hangs on to his opponent’s left arm with both hands, and with the arm lock and scissors hold forces his opponent’s shoulders to the floor for the fall.
The power of the scissors across the body is too great for an opponent to escape from, and as showing how strong Lewis is able to apply it, it is only necessary to recall his last match with Dr. B.F. Roller, when three of Roller’s ribs were fractured by the hold.
Realization of all the promises made for Lewis will give the world another American wrestler for champion. Lewis is an exceptional man in the game he has chosen. He is well educated, having attended Ripon college at Ripon, Wis., although he is not a graduate.
In one respect Lewis resembles Frank Gotch, who claims that he has retired from the game. That is the ability to think quickly. Lewis has already shown evidence of wrestling mentality well above the average. In a match recently with Paul Martinson the Kentuckian was tricked into a toe hold which looked certain to produce a fall, but it didn’t, for the simple reason that Lewis used his head and got out of trouble by taking the only possible way — the long run.
AN ALL AROUND ATHLETE
Lewis is an all around athlete and it would be hard to fine a better proportioned man. Unlike the great majority of the powerfully muscled foreigners who for years have invaded this country in the chase for dollars and glory, he is not overburdened with bulging muscles and fat. It is hard to imagine where his remarkable strength comes from, but it is there. If there is one thing that may be a hindrance to Lewis that will be lack of weight. He weighs 206 pounds, which is somewhat low for a heavyweight grappler.
Early athletic training, gained in high school and at college, have done wonders for the Badger. When he attended high school he played on the baseball and football teams, and he also played some football while in college.
Sheboygan, Wis., may have a chance to boast if Lewis becomes a champion, for it was there that he was born on June 30, 1891. His father and mother are German. Lewis passed the early years of his life in Sheboygan and attended the grammar school there. When he was 13 years old, with his parents, he moved to Grand Rapids and there gained his high school education.
WRESTLED IN HIGH SCHOOL
While attending high school Lewis engaged in his first wrestling match. His team was playing in a small town not far from Grand Rapids, and after the game was over he was asked if he would meet the star of the town in a bout. He agreed and two hours later they had it out in the opera house before a crowd of 300 persons. Lewis won after a tough battle.
There was not a town in the state that didn’t have its champion wrestler, and a fellow didn’t have much trouble getting a match, although there was little financial return. He met several of the other boys in the small towns and defeated them. It was not until shortly after he had left college, a little more than three years ago, that he decided to take up wrestling. Freddie Beell, the Marshfield star, visited Grand Rapids, and as Lewis was the champion of the town a match was quickly made. Lewis didn’t know how good Beell was at the time, but it didn’t take him long to find out.
DESCRIBES MATCH WITH BEELL
He describes that match:
“Beell suggested to me just before we met that we make it a handicap match, that he would throw me twice in an hour. His offer made me angry, for I thought I was a real wrestler, and I told him it would have to be a finish contest or there would be no match. He agreed. What Beell did to me was something awful. He threw me twice in an hour, but he could have done it much more quickly. He just let me stay to punish me and he taught me a good lesson. For two weeks after that bout I had to hold my head up with one hand and eat with the other, so severely did he wrench my neck. That match also gave me the idea that I could make good, and so not long after that I made a trip out west meeting anybody I could get on. I met (Stanislaus) Zbyszko at Minneapolis and won twice from him, not allowing him to secure falls on me in fifteen minute handicaps.”
Lewis was wrestling in Lexington, Ky., when his present manager, Jerry Walls, saw him, and immediately took hold of his affairs. That was about a year ago. Lewis has made Lexington his headquarters ever since. He secured the position of wrestling and boxing instructor at Kentucky university, which he held for a year, resigning in order to go out after championship honors.
SOME OF HIS VICTIMS
Among some of Lewis’ victims to date are Jack Leon, William Demetral, and Dr. B.F. Roller. Lewis met Roller twice at Lexington. In the first match last spring the physician was the winner in straight falls, the first fall being won on a toe hold in 52 minutes and the second in 1 1/2 minutes.
In their second meeting, on Sept. 18, Lewis turned the tables by winning the match in one fall, when Roller’s ribs cracked from the famous scissors across the body hold. Demetral won one match from Lewis, but in the second Lewis was the victor.