Robin Reed

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Robin Reed
Robin Reed.jpg
Personal information
Born October 20, 1899 (1899-10-20)
Pettigrew, Arkansas, United States
Died December 20, 1978 (1978-12-21) (aged 79)
Salem, Oregon, United States

Robin Reed (October 20, 1899 – December 20, 1978) is considered among the greatest amateur wrestlers in the history of the sport.[peacock term] Throughout his career he never lost a wrestling match, official or unofficial, to anyone at any weight class.[1] He was known for winning a gold medal at the 1924 Summer Olympics,[1] leading Oregon State to its first team national championship, and for consistently wrestling in the 170 pound weight division despite his actual weight being close to 140.

Early years[edit]

Reed was born in Pettigrew, Arkansas, but first took up wrestling at Portland's Franklin High School, where he took the class in order to get out of having to take gym. He is quoted as saying: "I needed gymnasium credits to graduate from high school, but I didn't want any gym because I was already getting all the exercise I needed operating an air hammer at the shipyards. I was only 125 pounds and could barely hold onto that air hammer, so I was getting all the gym I needed." He learned quickly and dominated the competition, going undefeated throughout his time there.

After high school he attended Oregon State University (then known as Oregon Agricultural College), and won every match he was in, winning the 125-pound National AAU championship in 1921 and the 135-pound championship in 1922 and 1924 (He failed to win a title in 1923, despite winning every match he was in). While still a student at Oregon State, he coached the local Corvallis High School wrestling team to win the state championship.


While still attending Oregon State, Robin participated in the 1924 Pacific Northwest Olympic team trials. He entered the 145.5, 158.5, 174.0, and 192.0 pound weight classes, and won them all. He made the Olympic team, and on the boat trip to Europe he had unofficial matches against every other member of the United States team. It was widely known that he had the ability to pin every member of the team [weasel words], and on this occasion he nearly accomplished that, pinning 12 out the 13 of them, all but the person who would become the gold medalist at heavyweight that year, Harry Steel (He still beat him, however, despite not being able to pin him).[citation needed]

While hitch-hiking from his home in Oregon to New York City in 1924 to join the U. S. Olympic team, Reed stopped at Iowa State University to work out, but was refused permission. He asked the coach if he could work out if he first pinned every member of the wrestling team. The coach agreed. Reed proceeded to pin every Iowa State wrestler and he got his workout.[citation needed]

During practice for the Olympics in Paris, Reed bet he could pin Harry Steel, the U. S. heavyweight champion and eventual gold medal winner in that weight class. He not only pinned Steel, but he did it five times in fifteen minutes.[citation needed]

At the Olympics, he entered the 134.5 pound weight class (the second lowest) and pinned every single one of his opponents, including fellow Oregon State teammate Chester Newton in the finals. The United States team ended up getting gold in 3 other weight categories, including heavyweight, so it is widely believed that if the rules had permitted it, Robin could have won the gold medal in every weight class.


Upon his return from the Olympics, Robin retired his amateur wrestling career having never lost a match- a feat unmatched by anyone else in the history of the sport other than Japan's Osamu Watanabe

While still a student there, he became coach of the Oregon State varsity team, and led them to win the national AAU championship in 1926, Oregon State's first team national championship in any sport.

In late 1926 he became a professional wrestler, a career he would follow for 10 years. In 1936, he went into the real estate business and built a house in Lincoln City, on the Oregon Coast, where he would reside until he died in 1978.

In Dec 1936, Reed survived a suicide attempt following a lawsuit from his ex-wife.[2]

He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1978.


  1. ^ Robin Reed, distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame
  2. ^ Oregon State Wrestling History, page 11