Marshfield, February 1899: An attempted ruse wrestled into submission
Freddy Beell outlasts professional wrestler Bert Scheller
By Kris Leonhardt
Coming to America from West Prussia, Germany, at the age of 3, Freddy Beell was destined for the German community that encompassed a portion of Marshfield. Like many young men in Marshfield, Beell would begin employment at the Upham mill at a young age.
While employed at the mill, Beell’s strength and stature would earn him a local wrestling career, receiving a portion of the receipts and providing an arena for local betting.
In February of 1899, Beell was scheduled to wrestle Appleton police officer Otto Zulke. The pair had signed a contract to compete in a match held at the armory on Feb. 7 at 9 p.m.
At 6 p.m. Beell’s competition arrived at the Upham Mansion to check in for the evening’s grapple. Due to the fact that the match was arranged by mail correspondence, organizers of the event were unclear of Zulke’s appearance.
When the wrestler entered the Mansion House, it did not take long for someone to recognize the large, burly man as professional wrestler Bert Scheller, who was scheduled to wrestle the following week in Milwaukee.
Locals immediately realized they were being played. The pro had been sent in Zulke’s place to dupe the Marshfield community, figuring the 23-year-old Beell for an easy target.
Organizers made a plan. They would expose Scheller after the match and deny him the purse if Beell still agreed to wrestle. Beell agreed.
At 9 p.m. nearly 200 spectators packed the armory. The wrestlers made their way to the ring, and Scheller was introduced as Zulke.
From his corner Beell eyed his opponent, a man of large build. Realizing the gravity of the situation, he prepared for a match that would take all that he could bring.
When the referee called “time,” the two met and crossed hands.
Despite Beell being able to get the upper hand, Scheller’s size made it impossible for Beell to take him down. However, after an hour and 48 minutes, Beell wore his opponent down, and Scheller conceded. Beell had won the purse.
When Scheller came forward to ask for his share of the receipts, organizers exposed their knowledge of his identity, and Scheller was turned away. After the imposter begged and pleaded, claiming he had no funds to cover his trip, officials put forward money for his hotel and travel.
Beell served in the Spanish-American War and continued to wrestle until 1919. More on Beell will be in a future column.
Kris Leonhardt may be reached at email@example.com.