Ad Santel

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Ad Santel
Birth name Adolph Ernst
Born (1887-04-07)April 7, 1887
Died November 10, 1966(1966-11-10) (aged 79)
Alameda, California, U.S.
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Al Santel
Otto Carpenter
Mysterious Carpenter
Adolph Ernst
Billed height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Billed weight 185 lb (84 kg)
Debut 1907
Retired 1933

Adolph Ernst (April 7, 1887–November 10, 1966), better known for his ring name Ad Santel, was an American professional wrestler, considered one of the greatest practitioners of catch wrestling ever. He is known for his feud with the Kodokan judo school.


Ad Santel fought one of the early clash-of-the-styles matches in modern martial arts history against Tokugoro Ito, a 5th degree black belt in Judo from Japan. Santel defeated Ito when a slamming takedown rendered the Judoka unable to continue the point and proclaimed himself the World Judo Champion. Tokugoro Ito went on to avenge the loss a few months later on June 10, 1916 by defeating Santel with a choke hold, being one of very few to ever defeat Santel.[1] The two had a third match, which ended in a draw.[2]

In October 1914, Santel came to Seattle and challenged resident judo master Taro Miyake. Santel won with such a powerful half nelson slam that Miyake remained dizzy for half an hour after the match. Seeing this as a new offense, judo founder Jigoro Kano sent 5th degree black belt Daisuke Sakai to avenge his defeat, but Santel again got over him, submitting Sakai twice with a biceps slicer. The Kodokan school did not send more challengers, but Santel decided to return the move and assembled a team with fellow wrestlers Henry Weber and Matty Matsuda in order to go to Japan. Their travel was possible thanks to Kodokan member Heita Okabe, who helped to produce a series of matches between Ad's team and the Kodokan judokas. Though Kano refused to sanction the bouts and threatened his students with expulsion if they fought, six of them accepted the challenge nonetheless, among them 5th degree black belts Hikoo Shoji and Reijiro Nakata. Before a crowd of 10.000 at the Yasukuni shrine, Santel defeated Nagata by TKO after a devastating headlock, and the next day, he had a 60 minutes draw with Shoji, who left the mat so battered that Santel himself had to help him to exit the arena. Later Santel would defeat another judoka, Hajime Shimizu, to avenge Shimizu's victory over Weber, and drew with him at their rematch.[2]

The impact of these performances on Japan was immense. The Japanese were fascinated by the submissions taught in catch wrestling, and Japanese fighters traveled to Europe in order to either participate in various tournaments or to learn catch wrestling at European schools such as Billy Riley's Snake Pit in Wigan, UK.[3] Okabe and the judo challengers were effectively expelled from Kodokan, but Shoji and some of them followed Santel to the United States to train with him.[2] Ad would keep battling judokas over the years, facing renowned Tsutao Higami in a two falls match; Ad won the first one with a neckscissors and Tsutao won the second via juji-gatame, thus ending the match with a draw. In 1926, he would face Setsuzo Ota, drawing again. After that bout, both contendants claimed it to be the toughest match in their lives.[2]

Years after the famous 1911 match between Frank Gotch and Georg Hackenschmidt, Santel told Lou Thesz that he was paid $5,000 by Gotch's backers to cripple Hackenschmidt in training, and make it look like an accident.[4] According to Hackenschmidt himself, the injury was accidentally inflicted by his sparring partner, Dr. Roller, when trying to hold Hackenschmidt down onto his knees and Roller's right foot striking Hackenschmidt's right knee; his sparring partners were Jacobus Koch, Wladek Zbyszko and Dr. Roller. Ad Santel is not mentioned in any account of Hackehschmidt's training by either Hackenschmidt or Roller, both of whom offered their insights and accounts.[5] However, Ad Santel was Hackenschmidt's head trainer and sparring partner using his real name of Adolph Ernst for about a year prior and right up until the 2nd Gotch match when he was replaced with Dr Roller. Ernst was listed in almost every newspaper story on Hackenschmidt in the months prior to the Gotch rematch. It's believed Hackenshmidt put out the Roller story in hopes of Gotch and Burns refusing to pay Santel.[6]

Ad Santel's professional wrestling career took him all throughout the world, wrestling some of the top wrestlers of the 1910s, '20s and '30s including Joe Stecher,[7] Gus Sonnenberg,[8] John Pesek[9] and Dick Daviscourt.[10]

In 1922, Santel lost his World Light Heavyweight Championship to Gobar Goho of Calcutta (now Kolkata), India in San Francisco.[11]

Career highlights[edit]

  • Won over Senryuken Noguchi in San Francisco, California on November 1915
  • Won over Tokugoro Ito in San Francisco, California on February 5, 1916 (KO from takedown)
  • Lost to Tokugoro Ito in San Francisco, California on July 16, 1916 (submission from choke)
  • Drew with Tokugoro Ito in San Francisco, California in 1916
  • Won over Taro Miyake in Seattle, Washington on October 20, 1917 (KO from Half nelson slam)
  • Won over Daisuke Sakai in Seattle, Washington on September 2, 1917 (submission from biceps slicer)
  • Won over Reijiro Nagata in Tokyo, Japan on March 5, 1921 (TKO from headlock)
  • Drew with Hikoo Shoji in Tokyo, Japan on March 6, 1921
  • Won over Hajime Shimizu in Nagoya, Japan on March 1921
  • Drew with Hajime Shimizu in Osaka, Japan on March 1921
  • Lost to Gobar Goho in San Francico, California on August 30, 1921
  • Drew with Tsutao Higami in Big Island, Virginia on July 4, 1925
  • Drew with Setsuzo Oza in Los Angeles, California on January 27, 1926
  • Lost to Ed "The Strangler" Lewis in Oakland, California on April 28, 1933
  • Drew with Oki Shikina in Los Angeles, California on May 17, 1933
  • Won over Kinata Kitahata in Los Angeles, California on September 11, 1933

Championships and accomplishments[edit]


Professional wrestling[edit]


  1. ^ "Ito threw Santell (sic) around the ring like a bag of sawdust… When Ad gasped for air, the Japanese pounced upon him like a leopard and applied the strangle hold. Santell gave a couple of gurgles, turned black in the face and thumped the floor, signifying he had enough." -- Howard Angus, Los Angeles Times, 1 February 1917
  2. ^ a b c d John Stevens, The Way of Judo: A Portrait of Jigoro Kano and his Students
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2010-07-25. 
  4. ^ Thesz, Lou, & Kit Bauman, Mike Chapman, Editor, Hooker, The Authentic Wrestler's Adventures Inside the Bizzare World of Professional Wrestling (Wrestling Channel Press, 1995-2000), p. 67
  5. ^ Fleischer, Nat, From Milo to Londos (The Ring, Inc., 1936), p. 122-24.
  6. ^ 1911-1-17 Washington Times 1911-1-18 Yakima Herald times 1911-2-6 RI Argus 1911-8-23 Bridgeport Evening Farmer 1911-9-3 The Richmond Times-Dispatch 1912-1-6 Topeka State Journal
  7. ^ "Stecher Wins in Straight Falls". Classic Wrestling Articles. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Ad Santel Meets Sonnenberg Tues.". Classic Wrestling Articles. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  9. ^ "Santel v. Pesek". Classic Wrestling Articles. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  10. ^ "Santel Takes Deciding Fall in Hot Match". Classic Wrestling Articles. Retrieved 30 August 2015. 
  11. ^ "Wrestling History". Pro Wrestling Illustrated. 2013. 

External links[edit]