“Tigerman” John Pesek Defeats Olympian Nat Pendleton

by Mark Long

John Pesek - historyofwrestling.comAs the Gold Dust Trio (Strangler Lewis, Billy Sandow and Toots Mondt) ruled the wrestling world, promoter Jack Curley decided to  challenge the group’s supremacy. With the trio seeking a payday with boxing champion Jack Dempsey, Curley-backed wrestler made a challenge to the boxer as well, offering to meet him at any time. Pendleton, an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling, and Curley then began challenging Sandow ally Paul Bowser and his champion George Calza. Bowser accepted the challenge but insisted that Pendleton must first wrestle against an unknown challenger, and must prevent being thrown twice in 90 minutes. Pendleton was told that this mystery man would weigh under 190 lbs., and knowing that he had a sze advantage and could wrestle on the defensive, he agreed to the match. Two days before the match, the mystery man was revealed to be Lewis’ “policeman,” John Pesek. Pesek was a feared wrestler, employed to keep other shooters away from Lewis, as they would have to come through him first.

Nat Pendleton - historyofwrestling.comThe match began with Pesek going after Pendleton frantically. Pesek secured a wrestlock on the Olympian and after a great struggle, Nat was able to escape the hold, much to the pleasure of the crowd. Thirty minutes had passed with Pendleton staving off the fierce onslaught. Pesek, though, was calm and switched tactics, fist security a leglock and then going for a toe-hold.  When it appeared that his leg would be broken, Pendleton finally submitted and was led hobbling over to his corner. He had suffered a serious injury, later revealed to be torn ligaments in his lower leg. The second fall lasted only five minutes as the game, but injured, Pendleton was not match for Pesek went after the injured leg and secured another toe-hold, causing Pendleton to concede the second and deciding fall. The match was described by the Oregonian as “as fine a display of rough and ready North American catch-as-catch-can wrestling as had ever been seen.”