Did you know that Baltimore was home to the “most forgotten” world wrestling champion? August John “Americus” Schoenlein was born December 25, 1883 in Baltimore and surprisingly made his professional debut in 1901, after studying architectural drawing at the Maryland Institute.
From The Washington Times, April 8, 1906
Americus, the local light heavyweight wrestler, had little real difficulty in downing “Jim” Parr, the Englishman, in two straight falls tonight at the Baltimore Athletic Club, at which Americus is wrestling instructor.
The men wrestled for a purse and the exhibition was exclusively for club members. Showy best describes the contest. Although Parr had a few pounds the advantage in weight, Americus, whose real name is Gus Schoenlein, had the call on height and, incidentally, in age.
Only on one occasion was the Baltimorean in danger, but that for such a short time that he was free before the club members realized how close their favorite had been to the mat.
Schoenlein won the World Light Heavyweight Title from Fred Beell in April 1908. Americus was “handled” by Frank Lynch and Young Hart. Americus was surprised he won so easily. Beell was said to be not in best of form because his wife had been ill. Beell was managed by Charles Weiss and Weiss managed Americus when he was just starting out. Lynch was a middleweight and Strong Man was from West Baltimore. He then won the World Heavyweight Champion in 1914, losing the belt 2 months later to Stanislaus Zybysko.
In 1915 Schoenlein ran for a position as Baltimore City Building Inspector, saying:
“And why shouldn’t I? I have been a builder longer than I have been in the wrestling game, and I feel fully qualified in every respect to fill the position with honor to myself….When I left school I followed my trade, despite the fact that I also became interested in wrestling. I would work a while and wrestle a while. But I never let my wrestling interfere with my building operations. I am now 32 years old and have been a builder for a good many years.
After his retirement from professional wrestling Americus coached Princeton’s wrestling team in the 1920s, and at his passing in 1958 his wrestling gear was displayed in the window at the Pratt Library downtown. His obituary in the Baltimore Sun said just about all that could want to be said:
“Perhaps the nicest thing August J. Schoenlein the retired contractor who brought fame to his city a couple of generations ago, is that when he stopped wrestling, he settled down to a useful, quiet, unassuming life – a typical, useful Baltimorean.”