Famous Olympic Wrestlers

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Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby Harry Hayfield » Mon Feb 01, 2016 10:04 pm

As we are now in Olympic year (and having realised that this forum also covers wrestling) I thought it would be a suitable moment to mention some of the freestyle and Greco Roman Wrestlers who have not only won an Olympic medal but gone on to greater heights. In the first Olympics of the Modern Era, just like weightlifting, wrestling was there (but there was only one weight class and therefore only one champion) and that first Olympic champion was Carl Schuhmann of Germany.

What might surprise you though, is that the wrestling competition was more a "Hold on, weren't you lifting something over your head?" reunion as his route to the medal shows. In the first round he went up against a certain Launceston Elliot (revelling from his gold medal in the one arm lift and probably still grumbling about his silver in the two arm lift). The second round was a bye, and so in the final he was up against Georgios Tsitas (who was an out and out wrestler) and that probably explains why the bout lasted for forty minutes before the referee determined it was too dark to continue and so postponed the result until the following day when the German, now rested, finished off the Greek in no time.

But did he rest on his laurels? He most certainly did not. After that he took part in the long jump (but failed to medal), the triple jump (fifth), the shot put (bottom three of seven) and even had a go at the two armed lift contest (finishing in fourth lifting 90kg tying with another Greek), but his place in the history books was assured and when he died in 1946 in Berlin, he was hailed as the first Olympic wrestling champion of the Modern Era.

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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby DannyBoy » Tue Feb 02, 2016 9:33 am

Great idea Harry! I look forward to your further write-ups on Olympic medal winning wrestlers you choose to highlight. :)
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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby peter yates » Tue Feb 02, 2016 3:06 pm

HI HARRY,
EXCELLENT IDEA. THANKS FOR THE FIRST WRITE UP QUITE RIGHTLY ON THE FIRST MODERN CHAMP. LOOK FORWARD TO MORE OF SAME.
REGARDS, PETER.
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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby Harry Hayfield » Tue Feb 02, 2016 10:52 pm

For some reason, perhaps due to the fact that France considered them brutish and not part of the French lifestyle, there were no medals awarded for weightlifting or wrestling in the 1900 Games, and when wrestling came back in 1904 in St. Louis, they were completely different to the contest held in 1896 for starters, there were weight classes. These classes were Light Flyweight (up to 105lbs), Flyweight (106 -115lbs), Bantamweight (116 - 125lbs), Featherweight (126 - 135lbs), Lightweight (136 - 145lbs), Welterweight (146 - 158lbs) and Heavyweight (over 158lbs) and so as a result potentially twenty one countries would win a medal. As it was America won all 21!

Of those 21 Americans, perhaps the person that has the biggest claim to fame is Frank Kugler who (although German by birth) became (and still is) the only competitor to win a medal in three different sports at the same Olympic Games. So how did he go about this feat? Well, in chronological order:

September 1st 1904: was a member of the Southwest Turnverein of Saint Louis No. 2 tug of war team that won the bronze medal in that competition
September 3rd 1904: won the bronze medal in the two handed weightlifting competition and all around dumbbell competition (another American clean sweep)
October 15th 1904: Qualified for the finals of the Heavyweight wrestling against Bernhoff Hansen (a Norwegian by birth) but succumbed to him in two minutes precisely.

And despite all the achievements of people like Mark Spitz, Michael Phelps and Ole Einar Bjørndalen he is the only person to have achieved that particular Olympic record.

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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby DannyBoy » Wed Feb 03, 2016 2:27 am

Hey Harry. Both Greco-Roman wrestling (formerly known as French Wrestling) and professional wrestling have their origins in mid-1800s France. Paris, France hosted a number of the World Heavyweight and World Lightweight Greco-Roman wrestling tournaments held during the late 1890s and early 1900s, including the very first World Heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestling tournament in 1898 which was won by Frenchman Paul Pons. Pons was arguably the greatest Greco-Roman wrestler of the era and one of France's most famous athletes at the time, and Greco-Roman wrestling was a popular sport. I honestly don't know why wrestling wasn't included in the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, but I gotta say I really don't think it had to do with the French considering it brutish or anything. The 1900 Olympic Games was kind of a mess to begin with anyway (as was the 1904 Olympics).

Anyway, thanks for highlighting Frank Kugler and giving him his proper respect. :)
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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby Harry Hayfield » Wed Feb 03, 2016 10:42 pm

By 1908, the Greeks and the Romans started to get involved (that's right, the first Olympic Greco Roman wrestling tournament arrived) and as a result the number of medallists increased to twenty seven and one of those medallists (from Finland) had exceptionally humble beginnings.

Yrjö Saarela was his name and when he represented Finland in those Games in London he was a humble farmer, but as we all know sometimes farmers produce people of exceptional strength (and lend their job title to an event in strength athletics). After all, when you stand 5ft 11 inches tall and weigh 185lbs, no one is going to argue with you about your yields! Undaunted by the culture shock of rural Finland to urban London he was going to do his best for his homeland and my word, did he. The event was run as a knock out competition, and his progression was as follows:

Round 1: vs Neilsen (Denmark)
Round 2: vs Nixson (Great Britain)
Quarters: vs Doubois (Belgium)
Semis: vs Jensen (Denmark)
Final: vs Weckman (Finland)

And although Weckman won the gold, Finland claimed a one two (which were the sum total of the Finnish medals at those games). After winning his category at the 1911 World Wrestling Championships, he competed in the 1912 Olympic Games, as one of the six wrestlers put forward by Finland of the eighteen wrestlers in the heavyweight competition. He faced Jensen once more in the deciding match for the gold medal, winning the bout after Jensen retired due to exhaustion following three hours of wrestling in the open air.

He briefly had a professional wrestling career, and also coached the Finnish national wrestling team. However in 1944 (aged 60) he suffered a stroke whilst farming which left him paralysed. Perhaps as a result of that (and knowing that he would never ben able to wrestle again) he was awarded a Cross of Merit for his sporting achievements in 1948 but just three years later he died and he was buried in the family plot with his name and the Olympic rings engraved onto the gravestone.

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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby Harry Hayfield » Sat Feb 06, 2016 11:25 pm

In 1912, when the Olympics were held in Stockholm, Sweden, only the Greco Roman classes took place meaning that the number of medals awarded was reduced to just 15 medals, however in one class there was no gold medal awarded. That class was the Light Heavyweight class and one of the people who didn't get the gold was Ivar Böhling of Finland.

He first appeared on the wrestling scene in 1911 when he won the Finnish national light heavyweight title and by rights qualified for the Stockholm Olympics (and was one of 37 Finnish wrestlers, who were the largest contingent of wrestlers in the competition) and due to the number of wrestlers taking part, a hundred and seventy, the competition lasted over a week. Ivar's first round bout was against Edouard Martin of France (whom he beat), the second round saw him go up against Karl Gross of Germany (who he also beat), followed by Peter Oehler (also of Germany) who he beat as well. Next came Oreste Arpe of Italy (who he beat), Jens Christensen of Denmark (who he beat), and Fritz Lange of Germany (who he beat as well). All of which meant that he and Anders Ahlgren (of Sweden) were the qualifiers for the gold medal having neither lost a match during the whole competition. And that's when the problems started.

You see, they were just as good as each other and this was more than demonstrated when the final was still going on, nine hours after it had started. Now, as I am sure you know, when it comes to schedules opening ceremonies can be allowed to slide quite readily (London's opening ceremony overran by a good 45 minutes) however competitions cannot overrun so the officials came up with a wheeze and declared that the bout was a tie (which makes perfect sense) however their next ruling made no sense at all. They deemed that no one had won, therefore no gold medals would be awarded and both wrestlers got a silver for their troubles.

Well, Ivar had the last laugh as far as I am concerned because in 1913 he won the Finnish national light heavyweight title again, and then won the Finnish national heavyweight class in 1915 and 1916, turned professional and retired in 1920. However, whilst the decade started with him at the height of his powers, he died at the end of the decade in his native Finland

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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby peter yates » Sun Feb 07, 2016 5:43 pm

HI HARRY,
THANKS FOR MORE INTERESTING INFORMATION. KEEP IT COMING.
REGARDS, PETER.
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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby Harry Hayfield » Fri Feb 12, 2016 9:43 pm

The First World War meant it was eight years before Olympic wrestling was contested again and when it did Finland ruled the roost winning five golds, five slivers and two bronzes, but one of the medals was won by someone who, it could be argued, was the pioneer of stars to come, as he made a successful transition from the Olympic stage to the stage of the silver screen. Nat Pendleton

Born in Davenport, Iowa in 1895 he began his wrestling career at Columbia University and was crowned Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) champion in both 1914 and 1915. He was selected for the 1920 Games as part of the American contigent and entered the Heavyweight class (which took place between August 25th and 27th) with a match every day for all three days. His first bout was against Sven Mattsson (SWE), that was followed the following day by Ernst Nilsson (also from SWE) and lined up a final with Robert Roth (SUI) and although he didn't win the gold, the silver he won was the start of a long career for him.

There are suggestions that his first film was an appearance in "The Battle of Gettysburg" that was filmed to mark the battle's 50th anniversary in 1913, but his first confirmed appearance was in "Hoosier Schoolmaster" from 1924 and from then he rose in the cinema going public's opinions and was soon playing roles that maybe typecast him a little.

His first major starring role was as a football player in the movie "Horse Feathers" starring the Marx brothers and the scene called him to kidnap Harpo and Chico. He also appeared in "The Sign of the Cross" under the directorship of Cecil B DeMille, "The Thin Man" as a lieutenant, and to show that he could be a baddie with the best of them "Baby Face Harrington" and then came in 1935 a role that suited him down to the ground when Robert Z. Leonard was asked to direct a potted history of the great showman Florenz "Flo" Ziegfeld, Jr. (a name we all know) and who do you think was asked the play the role of his most famous discovery, Eugene Sandow, that's right!

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vf7Nzv0HFO0[/video]

But he didn't stop there, not by a long shot. He teamed up with the Marx Brothers again in "At the Circus" from 1939, starred alongside Spencer Tracy in "Northwest Passage" in 1940 and even managed to recurring role as Joe Wayman in seven films profiling Dr. Kildare. His last film "Scared to Death" saw him team up with the premier name in horror at the time Bela Lugosi.

[video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRfTCC4P7IE[/video]

Nat died in 1967 but you can still see him, not only in the films that he starred in, but also at the Cypress View Mausoleum and Crematory in San Diego where he was interred in Corridor A NW, #9.

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Re: Famous Olympic Wrestlers

Postby DannyBoy » Fri Feb 12, 2016 10:30 pm

^Another good post Harry, Nat Pendleton is one of my favorite character actors from the 1930s & 40s. He appeared in over 100 movies and I figure I've probably seen at least half of those movies, I know I've seen him in a whole lot of movies in any case. After his amateur wrestling days and before he entered movies Nat Pendleton also had a short professional wrestling career, which essentially ended after he was defeated & injured by 'The Nebraska Tigerman' John Pesek in a "shoot". Anyway, Pendleton was featured on the cover of the May 1940 issue of Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture magazine.

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