George Alfred Martin was born June 4, 1911, at Renwick, Iowa, one of three children born to Dr. George & Blanche Martin. At the age of 6, they movd to Eagle Grove. It was there in high school he began to make his mark in wrestling. He was greatly influenced by his coach, Mr. Art Parsons, who stimulated his interest both in wrestling and in wood working.
In the fall of 1929, Martin enrolled at the Iowa State College in Ames and wrestled for the late Hugo Otopalik. During his 4 years at Iowa State, he build an outstanding wrestling record. He earned national honors in 1933 by winning the NCAA championships, and as captain lead his team to the NCAA title that same year. In 1934 he again earned national honors by winning the national AAU championships. He wrestled at 175 lbs and pinned all of his opponents.
In 1935 he became Wresling Coach at the University of Wisconsin. Thru George Martin's efforts, high schools began to include wrestling in their athletic programs and in 194 the first state wrestling tournament was held. By the 3rd year in 1942, 8 teams were entered.
During these early years of high school wrestling in Wisconsin, George traveled over 40,000 miles throughout the state giving demonstrations, clinics, talking to school board members, administrators and PTA groups selling the sport of wrestling.
The war years interrupted Wisconsin wrestling, and George served in WWII as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy. Acts of heroism abroad the aircraft carrier, Ticonderoga, earned him the Navy and Marine Corps bronze star. At the close of the war, Coach Martin resumed his great enthusiasm and pushed hard to establish wrestling in Wisconsin.
The success of his hard work is proven by the fact that today there are over 400 schools in Wisconsin who have wrestling programs.
George's many honors include: election to the Helms Hall of Fame 1969 and the Iowa Hall of Fame in 1970, recognized the greatness of this modest and humble man.
On the college level, Coach Martin developed such top-notch Big Ten wrestlers as John Roberts, Clarence Self, Larry Lederman, Ed Dzirbek, Don Ryan, Bob Konovsky, Roger Phillath, Ron Paar, Dan Pernat, Elmer Beale, Rick Heinzelman, Mike Gluck and Russ Hellickson.
George believed in competition as a means of stimulating the fullest effort on the part of an individual. He commented to young wrestlers: "It is fine when a team can win; it is perhaps a good thing for all of us to lose on occassion too. But one of the goals of sports participation is to try to win. If a boy is not playing to win, he is missing one of the worthwhile values of participation; he is failing to get the most from the game and he is failing to put the most into it."
But George did not see the purpose of athletics as only to win, or to accumulate trophies but to develop the individual person to his fullest potential, to nurture strength of character. He said: "When a boy forgets himself as an individual and loses himself in an unselfish desire to contribute to the team work of the group he gets a spiritual lift that makes him a standout. If this flame of desire spreads to other members of the team their effectiveness snowballs into unbeatable combination. Competitive athletic participation is an important part of a young man's education. The various sports train a youngster to play hard, yet restrain himself under the stress of the game; they teach him to respect not only the officials but his opponents; just as he will in later life, respect the authorities which society must maintain to guarantee equal rights for all; and just as he will also respect those with whom he will deal in his business and professional life."
As a coach, George stressed the importance of giving your best, of trying your hardest, of being completely committed to the goal. The important thing was not that you won, but that you did your best. Certainly many boys have responded tot he challenge which he put before them.
Although George Martin attained his widest reputation as a wrestling coach, there were other areas in which he was equally competent. These other facets of his personality we also recall with respect and appreciation.
His versatility, boundless energy and belief that a man's time should be spent usfeully, led him to develop interests beyond his chosen profession. His home woodworking shop reflected his early leanings toward architecture and industrial arts. A skilled craftsman, he designed the family residence and built most of the furniture for it.
The Christmas Workshop of the church benefited from his wood working ability as he cut out hundreds of pieces of wooden figures which the children could assemble and decorate as Christmas gifts. His spirit of volunteer services to the community included the Kiwanis Club, where he was a charter member and served on its Board of Directors.
He was also a member of the B.M.W Touring Club which enjoyed driving the back roads of Wisconsin and seeing the beauty of the out of doors.