One of the first wrestling matches hosted at Cheboygan was in 1883 at the Opera House with a match between LL Burton and Mr. Carlan. Burton was crowned Michigan champion. In 1907, the Cheboygan Democrat touted the health benefits of wrestling, citing the New York Medical Journal in a blurb titled “Wrestling for Exercise.”

“Wrestling, the ‘microcosm of gymnastics’, is a beautiful form of physical exercise for those who like to work hard after the tedious working hours of the day and can be practiced – adapting it to circumstances – by the mature man as well as by ten or twelve year old boy, especially the form known in this country as catch as catch can (which is roughly identical to a form of Swiss wrestling.) “

Wrestling became extremely popular in Cheboygan in 1911, because of a bear. Bear wrestling was a circus anomaly, a traveling act that first appeared in Cheboygan that year. Cheboygan’s two best athletes, Will Snowden and Arthur Girard had never faced each other. They attended the show and fought against the bear. It fueled their rivalry and they accepted a game.

Cheboygan Democrat reported, “For a long time, local enthusiasts discussed the relative merits of two town guys regarding their wrestling abilities, and it was only after the bear wrestling that took place in a local show house at five hundred that there were prospects. to bring these two boys together for a test of their powers. This had the desired effect, it seems, and immediately afterwards a match was made and the same will be concluded tonight at the City Opera House between Will Snowden and Arthur Girard, two of the arguably strongest men in the city.

Snowden won and started a series of games that left him undefeated. The excitement grew as he faced stronger opponents.

“Will Snowden, the local wrestling game champion, has signed a contract that should generate a lot of interest among fans as it means the biggest try Will has ever had since striving for championship honors. all the fights he’s had before, he hasn’t had to show up or practice, but this match should bring out all the possible strengths he has. The match just made is between him and Professor Barr d’Alpena at the Opera next Wednesday 31 May.

Snowden won. His popularity grew with each victory and he soon became a household name in Cheboygan.

“Snowden wins again. Will Snowden is now the envy of every little boy in town and many grown ups would love to have his strength and agility.

The fight has taken off. “Wrestling fever” hit Black River and Alverno with organized matches. There was even an impromptu game at Cheboygan station which maybe was more of a brawl.

“CL Smythe and Vanderwater had a wrestling match at the depot on Monday morning, which resulted in Van’s favor, 27 consecutive falls.”

Will Snowden, Cheboygan champion.

At the Opera, manager Elliot Erratt has reserved wrestling for every opportunity. The fight had the double draw of bringing in “Big Name” fighters from across the state, with the allure of the victorious hometown hero. They drew crowds of local friends and family. The big wrestling matches were the headliners. A few preliminaries and a few rounds of boxing were presented between sets and at the end. Tickets were affordable at 35 cents on the ground floor, 25 cents on the balcony, and women, accompanied by a gentleman, were admitted free.

With the excitement of wrestling came the lure of the game. Grafting and corruption quickly followed. The 1913 Burton vs. Wright match had racetrack allegations.

The racetrack is when managers, behind the scenes, “fix” fights with a predetermined winner. It is a safe bet on the winner to win some cash at the same time. The reverse, a square match, is a good match without cheating.

“The wrestling match at the Opera on Monday night between Robt. Wright of Detroit and LL Burton of Midland ended in Burton’s favor… We don’t know enough about the technical terms of the fight to give a detailed account of the match, which was very exciting and displayed splendid displays of strength and agility. It was obvious to all that Wright was the fastest and most scientific, but that he was outmatched in the point of strength. Burton knocked him down. several times on his back, but like a cat he always landed on his feet, each time passing aside… There are a lot of skeptical people who consider the game to be a “racetrack”, but we think that it was a meeting square. “

Another form of cheating using “ringtones” has also occurred. A ringer is a stronger substitute athlete who takes the place of the real fighter, unbeknownst to the punters. In 1911, a match was organized between Frank Burns of Boyne City and Peter Pappas, “the Greek wonder”. Bets were taken in advance, but when the man showed up he was not Peter Pappas.

The Cheboygan Democrat said: “The wrestling match at the town opera on Monday night did not draw a very large venue, due to a misunderstanding that the foreigner is not the real one. Peter Pappas. Mr Broderick, the manager, declared the bet and wanted to refund the money, but no man accepted the offer, and the match continued.

Peter Pappas never showed up at the Opera and a ringtone was sent in his place.

The wrestling mania ended at the Opera House on October 31, 1913, though it later returned in other forms. An incompetent or corrupt official was the cause.

The headline read: “Last Friday night’s wrestling match between Burns and Nasser turns out to be a fiasco and disgusts a large crowd.

“The wrestling match between Joe Nasser and Frank Burns at the Opera last Friday night was the straw that broke the camel’s back in the wrestling match at Cheboygan.

“Mr. Arthur Wentz, who was playing the role of referee, turned the fight into a farce and disgusted loyal sports fans who paid dearly to see a game they had been waiting for a long time.

“Before the start of the match, it was agreed between the participants that the choke hold should be prohibited. After the men were on the mat for about half an hour, Burns grabbed Nasser’s neck with scissors and l forced himself onto his back with a strangle hold as it could be secured … Nasser pointed at the hold but Wentz did not recognize her and gave Burns the fall. Nasser refused to continue and to end the match unless the referee recognizes the deal to prevent the take. Wentz asserted that this was not a strangling the grip and and stubbornly refused to give in. He attributed the fight to Burns.

Cheboygan wrestling fan Mert Wenthiemer wrote: “I will never be interested in a wrestling match again. There has only ever been one wrestling match and that’s when Bill Snowden wrestled with the bear. It couldn’t be fixed because the bear couldn’t understand.