Born: November 3, 1881
Died: July 8, 1948
George Nicholas Mehnert was born November 3, 1881 in Newark. The city had a large German population, and during the 1890s George spent endless hours at the National Turverein—a sports and gymnastics club with roots that stretched back to the beginning of the century. He soon distinguished himself as a great basketball player, and more so as one of the city’s finest wrestlers. He won the city championship in 1900.
George was small and wiry, standing just a shade over 5’2” and weighing 130 pounds. He was a vegetarian, which helped him keep his weight down. He was regarded as a scientific wrestler, meaning he won as much with his brains as his brawn. He had the added advantage of a world-class wrestling partner, Gus Bauers.
George won his first AAU wrestling championship in 1902 at age 20. He won the AAU title again in 1903 and 1904, and also won a gold medal in St. Louis in the 1904 Olympics in the Flyweight division. Bauers won a silver medal at the St. Louis games.
George didn’t lose a match until 1907, when he was defeated in the AAU finals by Yale’s George Dole. Both wrestlers won gold in London at the 1908 Olympics, George as a bantamweight and Dole as a flyweight. It would take 90 years for another American wrestler to win two Olympic golds. George was also won his sixth AAU title that year.
After the Olympics, George—the first American wrestling celebrity—toured the country as a professional wrestler. He also was elected president of the National Turnverein club, and helped to develop amateur wrestling in New Jersey. For many years, he was the chief clerk for AAU Wrestling during the 1930s. He died in Newark in 1948 at the age of 66.