1. Two wrestlers stood in a circle of shouting onlookers and sized up each other. One was of medium height, sturdily built and strong as an ox. He was stripped to the waist, revealing a huge chest overlaid with hard muscle. His arms were like the limbs of a tree. The other man towered over him, six feet and four inches tall and slender, his long arms dangling from his shoulders. His muscles were long and smooth, like those of a panther. The muscle man was Jack Armstrong. His tall opponent was 22-year-old Abraham Lincoln.
2. Had Lincoln lived today, he would be a football coach's dream, a great tackle, a speed end, a genius at quarterback. He would be a one-man track team. As a baseball player, he would be a home-run hitter. But his day was yesterday, and he was destined for greater things.
3. That Saturday afternoon in the village of New Salem, in Sangamon Country, Illinois in the year 1831, every man, and boy in town was at the circle that formed to watch the unknown Lincoln wrestle. Armstrong was the leader of a gang of rough men from Clary's Grove, a strip of land three miles from the village. Lincoln was a newcomer, almost a stranger.
4. A vacant lot beside a store was the site chosen for the match. The men agreed that it was to be a friendly affair, with such customary tricks as eye gouging, hair pulling, ear tearing and nose biting barred. At the signal Armstrong went after Lincoln with the rushes of a maddened bull, trying to knock him off his feet, but Abe held him off with his arms.
5. Lincoln tried to lift his opponent off the ground and slam him hard on his back. Armstrong was not to be handled so easily and they shoved each other all over the lot. The crowd moved along with them. The Clary's Grove Champion finally lost his temper and fouled Lincoln by grinding his foot with a boot heel. That touched off the fireworks. All rules were now forgotten. His face dark with anger, Lincoln grasped Armstrong by the throat, lifted him clear of the ground, shock him as thought he were a rag and threw him so hard that he lay stunned.
6. The Clary's Grove boys looked at their beaten leader and turned on Lincoln. He retreated a few steps to the grocery building, braced himself against the wall and told them to come and get him if they dared. Armstrong put an end to that. He got up, pushed his friends aside and grabbed Lincoln's hand. Turning to the crowd, Armstrong said he had been fairly beaten and that Abe Lincoln was the "best feller" who ever came to New Salem.