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Was Abraham Lincoln a Skilled Athlete?

In most history books, Abraham Lincoln is portrayed as a dignified statesman who served as the 16th President of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln is known for such achievements as helping to free the slaves and guide the United States through the Civil War. However, as a younger man in his teens and early 20s, Lincoln was known as one of the tougher blokes in rural 19th-century America -- a tall and wiry wrestler who only lost once in 300 or so wrestling matches. Honest Abe’s only wrestling defeat came at the hands of Hank Thompson, during a championship bout for the Illinois Militia regiment title in 1832.

Who wants a piece of the Great Emancipator?

  • The match against Thompson took place as the militiamen were enjoying some downtime in the midst of the Black Hawk War.
  • Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln also claims that Lincoln liked to do a little trash-talking. After trouncing a competitor, Abe supposedly claimed, “I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.”
  • In 1992, Lincoln was posthumously inducted into the Outstanding American wing of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Other presidential inductees include George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.
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