Historical Marker honoring the legacy of World Heavyweight Champion Ed "Strangler" Lewis
Robert Friedrich, who devoted a lifetime to the sport of wrestling, claims Nekoosa as his boyhood home. Born in 1890, he began his wrestling career at the age of sixteen when he challenged another local rival to raise funds for his baseball team. While Assistant Athletic Director at Kentucky University, he studied anatomy, thereby learning which nerve centers he might apply pressure to and thereby gain an advantage over his opponents. He gave to the sport of wrestling a scientific study which it had never before known.
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.
Photo taken by J.R. Manning
Robert Herman Julius Friedrich was born in Nekoosa, Wisconsin on June 30, 1891. He made a career of professional wrestling, using the stage name of Ed "Strangler" Lewis. It is said he took the name to pay homage to Evan "Strangler" Lewis after a newspaper reporter remarked about the similarity of the two wrestlers. (Evan Lewis was also born in Wisconsin, and was the first American to win the title of World Heavyweight Champion, a title he won six times.) Evan Lewis is sometimes credited with perfecting the "Stranglehold" while Ed Lewis perfected the "Sleeper" hold, both were the trademark holds of each wrestler.
(A documentary about wrestling, produced by A&E, claims that Ed Lewis got the moniker "Strangler" in Paris, where the French audience was not familiar with the "Sleeper" hold and thought Lewis was strangling his opponent. Take your choice.)
He passed his secrets to a young wrestler named Lou Thesz. Recognized as a great, Thesz and Verne Gagne have both stated the Lewis was the greatest wrestler of all times. Meredith Wilson even thought so, Lewis is mentioned in The Music Man. He died on August 8, 1966 in Muskogee, Oklahoma from complications of diseases from which he suffered. (Some reports say he died on August 7 in New York. Once again, take your choice.)
He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. You can see him and his headstone on Find A Grave.