Robert Friedrich started building his strength while a boy in Nekoosa. He became so strong that, under the name of Ed "Strangler" Lewis, he dominated the sport of wrestling from 1914 until he retired in 1940. During his career, Lewis held the uncrowned heavyweight championship five times.
Lewis claimed to have never been defeated during his 26 years and to have passed along the title to others for promotional reasons. Records of the era are too sketchy to confirm this claim, but it is known Lewis beat the likes of Joe Stecher, Yussuf Hussane and other greats of the era.