Tom Jenkins (August 3, 1872 - June 19, 1957) was an American catch wrestler who held the American Heavyweight Championship three times around the turn of the 20th century. He later taught at the United States Military Academy at West Point (1905–1942) and from 1912 to 1943 he also taught wrestling and boxing at the New York Military Academy at Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York.
His career began in early 1891 when Al Wood's opponent didn't show, his fellow millworkers drafted him at the age of 18. He wrestled him to a draw, using strength and agility to make up for a lack of skill. He then began training with Luke Lamb in Cleveland. He wrestled a matches while working his job, against the likes of Pete Shumacher and Hans Spiegel in straight falls.
In May 1893, he quit his job to go pro. In his first several years of wrestling he never lost, but his career struggled when his managers took his winnings, as he couldn't read. Finally in 1898 he found an honest manager in Harry Pollock. He then wrestled Martin Burns in Cleveland in straight falls to make a claim on the American Heavyweight Championship
He continued to be undefeated, beating all who mad a claim for the title, including Ernest Roeber on July 5, 1901 to set up a winner-take-all match with Dan McLeod. The two met in Cleveland, Ohio and Dan pinned him after thirty six minutes. He however came back, winning the second fall in twenty two minutes and deciding third fall in nineteen minutes to become the American heavyweight catch-as-catch-can champion. He had to forfeit the championship on December 25, 1902 due to blood poisoning back to Dan McLeod.
He came back in 1903, defeating Frank Gotch on February 22, 1903. He then wrestled Dan McLeod on April 3, 1903 to win back the championship. On January 27, 1904, he lost the championship to Gotch, after losing in the first round and fouling in the second round. On March 15, 1905 he defeated Gotch to once again regain the championship, making him the first to hold the championship three times. He and Gotch continued to wrestle each other, including a two-hour match on May 19, 1905 to defend his title. He lost the championship back to Gotch on May 23, 1906.
Tom worked as a steel worker during his life. He was blinded in his right eye in a fireworks accident on July 5. His left eye had limited sight, and thus ended his formal education, in fear him straining his eyes would cause him to be blinded completely. Then President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as the boxing and wrestling trainer at West Point Military Academy.
Championships and accomplishments
- American Heavyweight Championship (3 times)
- George Tragos/Lou Thesz Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame - inducted in 2006
- Pioneer Era inductee to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame (2008)