An Article by Mike Mooneyham
(December 7, 2000)
Information Provided by Matside (newsletter of International Wrestling Institute and Museum)
Two great amateur wrestlers who became world champion professionals headline the 2001 class of inductees into the George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Tim Woodin and Jack Brisco, along with “old timers” William Muldoon and Farmers Burns, will be inducted the weekend of June 1-2 at the International Wrestling Institute and Museum in Newton, Iowa. Activities include a reception at 6 p.m. Friday, June 1, for the inductees, friends and family. Saturday’s activities include a celebrity golf tournament at 11 a.m., official inductions in the wrestling museum at 5 p.m., and a banquet at 7 p.m.
Woods, better known during his illustrious career as Tim Woods and the masked “Mr. Wrestling,” enjoyed an accomplished amateur career, winning a number of state and regional titles while in high school in Ithica, N.Y. In college, he was the star of the feared Michigan State team, winning the Big 10 championship at 177 pounds and finishing second in the NCAA championships in 1958. He won the national AAU titles in both 1955 and 1957 and was considered one of the best pinners of the decade. After graduating from college, Woods decided to give the pro ranks a try. He debuted in 1962 and retired in 1984 before a sellout crowd at the Omni in Atlanta. In between, he held a number of prestigious titles and became one of the most respected professional wrestlers of his era.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Woods’ approach to professional wrestling was simple, and he stuck with the basics. He wore a pair of white boots and white trunks, and his trademark white mask. He became known as Mr. Wrestling and rode to the top of the profession.
“He is poetry in motion,” said the late Gordon Solie. “What he is doing out there is what the Greeks had in mind when they invented the sport.”
With his masked image and consistent display of solid wrestling and good sportsmanship, Woods became a fan favorite all over the South. He won his first major title – the Southern heavyweight title – from Johnny Valentine in Tampa. Twice he was half of the NWA world tag-team championship, the other half being Johnny Walker, Mr. Wrestling No. 2.
Brisco also had a sensational amateur career being turning professional. A three-time high school state champion at Blackwell, Okla., Brisco was also an all-state fullback on the football team.
Brisco wrestled in college for the legendary Oklahoma State Cowboys. He was NCAA runner-up in 1964 at 191 pounds, and the following year, he was NCAA champion, finishing the season without a single loss.
Under the direction of former champion Leroy McGuirk, Brisco turned professional soon after graduation and wrestled all over the South, He won the NWA world title in 1973 and was one of the most successful pro matmen for more than a decade. Among Brisco’s other titles include the Florida state championship and Southern heavyweight title. He also held numerous tag-team titles with brother Jerry.
Muldoon was a legendary figure in the sport. He fought in the Civil War as a youth and returned to his native New York to work as a policeman and as a wrestler. A Greco-Roman specialist, he was considered the world champion during much of the 1880s. He later trained legendary world heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan and was boxing commissioner of New York. He also started one of the world’s first health farms, and was one of the true giants of the sporting world until his death at the age of 88 in 1930.
Burns is without question one of the biggest names in the history of wrestling. Born on a small Iowa farm in 1876, Martin Burns took to wrestling as a young man and toured the Midwest, looking for pickup bouts.
He earned the nickname “Farmer” Burns when he appeared in Chicago for a wrestling match wearing overalls and looking like he had just come from the farm, which he had.
Burns won the recognized world title in 1898 and wrestled more than 6,000 matches in his legendary career, and claimed to have lost just six. He trained the great Frank Gotch and Earl Caddock, and also worked with world welterweight champion Jack Reynolds.
He helped a Cedar Rapids school win the first Iowa state tournament in 1921 and ran a successful mail order business and wrestling school in Omaha for nearly three decades. Farmer Burns died in 1937.
Tom Drake, a former college and professional wrestler who scaled the heights of the political world, was selected as the second winner of the Frank Gotch Award.
The award was started last year to pay tribute to men who have brought credit to the sport in the fashion that Frank Gotch did at the turn of the century.
Drake was a star athlete in high school in Alabama, and attended the University of Chattanooga on an athletic scholarship. He was a standout football player in college and won three conference titles in wrestling. He played in two football all-star games and was a top contender for the Olympic team in 1952.
He wrestled professionally from 1956-78. He won a number of titles and wrestled Lou Thesz for the world crown in 1962.
Drake was wrestling coach at the University of Alabama and an assistant football coach under the legendary Bear Bryant. He earned a master’s degree and law degree during his years at Alabama.
He served nine years in the Alabama House of Representatives and was House Speaker from 1982-87.