The Early Wrestling Career of a Future President

By John Nalan

“They’re wrestling!” people cried. “Abe Lincoln is going to wrestle today!”

The shout went up all over New Salem, Illinois. There was going to be a wrestling match.

Jack Armstrong was the county wrestling champion. He was described as a local bully who led a group of troublemakers called the Clary’s Grove Boys. Armstrong was considerably shorter than his opponent at 5’8”, but was said to be as strong as an ox and as mean as a badger. No one had beaten him in years, so most people in the area figured Armstrong would beat the untested newcomer.

His opponent, new to town, was a tall, thin twenty-two year old. No one in the area had seen him wrestle, but judging from his unusual height of 6’4”, long limbs, and broad shoulders, people figured he would be a formidable challenge to the area’s best grapplers.

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