‘The Legacy of Frank Gotch Still Inspires’
Posted by flairwhoooooo on July 9, 2012
By Rob Schamberger
I’ve discovered what’s so cool about professional wrestling, and I found it in rural Iowa. Missouri Wrestling Revival asked me to do a write-up on the unveiling ceremony for the Frank Gotch statue in Humboldt, IA on July 4th, as I was going to be there exhibiting some of my paintings. (Please don’t think this is a me, me, me piece, I just happen to be part of the story!) The fine folks at the Humboldt Area Arts Council invited me up to be in the event, as I had painted Frank Gotch and it made a natural fit with the mix of art and wrestling. I was largely communicating with their intern Kate, who was super-accommodating and very friendly. We got to town and had dinner with the people from the Arts Council, and walking into the restaurant I was stopped by a big poster featuring my painting and inviting people to come meet me on the 4th! This was surreal, because I started noticing this all over town. The people from the Arts Council were all gracious, lead up by their director Nancy. We talked a lot about art, and then about wrestling, and had a delicious pizza dinner (Quick digression – in Iowa they put crushed up Doritos on their taco pizzas. Fascinating!).
On the day of the event, we had a meet-and-greet with the people in the community and the other luminaries who had come into town, such as author Mike Chapman (who I did the Frank Gotch MWR trading card with!), amateur and professional wrestling star Brad Rheingans, NCAA, AAU and Olympic champion Bill Smith, sculptor Jeff Adams www.inbronze.com] and ‘Reach for the Stars‘ author Dan McCool. Next thing I know, I’m getting interviewed by the folks at Takedown Wrestling about my paintings. We then all head over to the park for the statue ceremony, joining the 350+ crowd already there.
Here’s where things got really, really cool. Dignitaries from the town and the committee members who made the statue happen speak, while Mike Chapman gives a passionate speech about Gotch. The tarp is removed and we are greeted by an utterly amazing bronze statue by sculptor Jeff Adams. The crowd gave as passionate an ovation for their hometown hero as any I’ve seen at a wrestling show, and the thing that hit me? These people largely weren’t wrestling fans. What they saw in Gotch was a guy utterly like them except for the fact that he was not just good at something in life, but he was better than anyone else. They saw someone who came up just like them, who went out into the world and became something special, but who then came home and was still one of the folks. The combination of his exploits and his roots created a personal connection with his fans, where they could say to themselves, “If I try hard enough, I can accomplish anything.”
And some of those people? They do just that. There’s a reason that so many wrestling greats come from Iowa, two of them there in the crowd. There’s a reason why Iowans Mike Chapman and Dan McCool have dedicated their lives to writing about wrestling. There’s a reason I’ve had unprecedented-for-me success by painting wrestlers. That reason for all of us is the example that Frank Gotch and his wrestling brethren gave us: If you try hard enough and you don’t give up, eventually you’ll reach the success you desire.
All of the fans who show up to the events, who cheer the wrestlers on, who support those of us inspired by these tremendous athletes and performers, they’re what is so cool about professional wrestling. They encourage all of us on to success and celebrate it when we obtain that success.
Rob Schamberger is a Kansas City-based artist who is currently painting every one of professional wrestling’s World Champions. You can see his work at http://robschamberger.com/, facebook.com/robschamberger and twitter.com/robschamberger.
Photos by Marena Fritzler, courtesy of the Humboldt Area Arts Council.