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The Impossible is Possible

Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2011 by Dan Pellicone
 
Excerpts from an article by Kyle Klingman, W.I.N. Columnist.
 
It is without question the most talked about photograph in wrestling history.  No scene looms larger than the one where super heavyweight Chris Taylor is being launched through the air in one of the most spectacular and awe-inspiring throws ever.
It is a tale that has been butchered and battered to a pulp over years of passing along incorrect information.
Like all legends, the core information usually remains intact. However, some interpretations of the story are outright hilarious. I recently heard a version that had Chris Taylor landing on top of his brave foe which in turn broke his opponent’s neck and left him paralyzed for life. Another erroneous account had Taylor falling on top of his undersized adversary, killing him instantly.  Most people have a vague idea of what happened, but since so few people were actually there pieces of the story have to be made up. The following is an account using information from those who witnessed the throw broken down into specific categories where the story often falls apart.

The venue
The throw occurred at the 1972 Olympics during the Greco-Roman portion of the Games. Chris Taylor represented the United States at super heavyweight in both the Greco-Roman and freestyle competitions.

The competitors
This is traditionally an area of confusion. The match pitted Chris Taylor against Wilfred Dietrich of West Germany, not Alexander Medved of the Soviet Union. Taylor and Medved did meet during the first round of the freestyle competition with Medved winning a controversial decision. Medved won the gold medal with Taylor taking the bronze.
Taylor and Dietrich wrestled twice during the 1972 Olympics. Taylor defeated Dietrich by decision during the freestyle competition. The match that featured the throw occurred several days later when the two faced off for the second time during the Greco-Roman portion of the Games, with Dietrich winning by fall.

The credentials
When Chris Taylor went to the Olympics in 1972, he had recently won his first NCAA title for Iowa State. In 1973, Taylor won his second title by pinning his way through the NCAA tournament. The former Cyclone star also made the 1970 Greco-Roman team but did not medal. Taylor was 22 at the 1972 Olympics.
Dietrich was a star in his own right. If you mention wrestling in Germany, Dietrich’s name will surely come up. So famous is Dietrich that there are wrestling shirts for sale in Germany that feature his famous throw. Dietrich holds the world record for the most medals won in modern Olympic wrestling competition at five. Wrestling at five different Olympics, Dietrich won a gold medal in freestyle in 1960. Dietrich was 38 when he wrestled during the 1972 Olympics.

The weight
In the 1996 edition of “The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics,” Taylor is listed as the heaviest competitor in Olympic history at 412 pounds. This weight did fluctuate during Taylor’s amateur wrestling career. Assistant freestyle coach Jim Peckham claims they got Taylor down to 390 during training camp while Dan Gable has seen Taylor weigh in at 450.  “Dietrich weighed about 287 at the ’72 Olympics which was bigger than he had weighed in previous Olympics and World Championships,” said Wayne Baughman, a member of the 1964, ’68 and ’72 Olympic teams. “He had a belly on him but it wasn’t a soft belly. He was solid throughout.”

The hug
The most famous and talked about part of this story is when Dietrich supposedly came up to give Taylor a hug to check if he could lock his hands around him to see if the throw was conceivable. Some accounts have Dietrich testing Taylor out in the United States during a wrestling tour, while others have the scene taking place at the Olympic Village or at the weigh-ins during the Olympics.  “It doesn’t matter where it took place,” Dan Gable told me. “All you need to know is that Dietrich locked his arms around Taylor to see if he could get his arms around him for the throw.”  “I was about four feet away when it happened,” said Jim Peckham, assistant coach of the freestyle team. “It was about five to ten minutes before their match (Peckham wasn’t sure if it was the Greco-Roman match or the freestyle match) and Dietrich came up to Chris and said ‘Chris, it’s so good to see you.’ Instead of a handshake, he gave him a big hug. I tried to step in to stop it but was too late. I think he was doing it to see if he could get his arms around Chris to attempt a throw.”

The move
I am dumbfounded at how many people in the wrestling world will refer to the move that Dietrich hit Taylor with as a soufflé. The word that should be used is souplay (hence the word suplex), which has several different spelling variations.  Actually, Dietrich's throw is considered a salt-o rather than a souplay. (A salt-o being a throw where the wrestlers are facing each other while a throw of the same amplitude from behind is considered a souplay)

Eye-witness accounts
Alan Rice, 1972 Olympic Greco-Roman head coach:
“I can tell you exactly what happened because I was four feet from it. Dietrich has this throw but he couldn’t reach his arms all the way around Chris but he got around there and he went to his own back and that was the days of the touch fall. Dietrich went straight back and he was pinned, he pinned himself. Then he rolled Chris over and got Chris on his back and the referee called the fall. It was a great injustice because Dietrich did pin himself.
“(Dietrich) could not lock his hands around Chris. He could get his fingers touching but just barely, not enough to grip his fingers at all. He was very much well-known for that throw. I don’t think Chris was too worried about the throw because he knew if he went belly to belly that (Dietrich) would go to his back and pin himself. He did but the referees flat out did not call it. He was on his back for no longer than one second but they did have the touch fall rule in place so (Dietrich) was pinned.

Wayne Baughman, 198-pound member of the 1972 Olympic Greco-Roman team:
“I went up to Chris before the match with Dietrich and said, ‘You can’t let him control the double underhook. This guy can throw and he knows that he can’t beat you the whole match. At some point he’s going to have to throw you. You have to control the underhook on one side.’
“Dietrich was working for a double underhook the entire match. After the first period had ended I began yelling as hard as I can that he’s looking for the double underhook and he’s going to try and throw you. He looked directly at me and nodded yes.
“Chris went right out there in the second period and puts in the double overhooks and that’s when Dietrich hit a perfect front souplay. When Dietrich hit the mat I couldn’t see him. He must have sunk about a foot into the mat. He was smashed flat in the mat. Dietrich did not hold a bridge but he did have enough momentum to carry him through to his right side and he stepped over onto Chris and got the fall.
“Five minutes later I went back to the locker room and Taylor was there by himself slouched over on a training table swinging his legs like a little kid. He looked up at me and shook his head and said, ‘I didn’t believe there was a human alive that could physically pick me off the mat and throw me but I was wrong.”  “The only thing Chris was upset about is that he let the whole thing happen,” said Lynne Lawrence, Taylor’s widow. “He always used to joke that everyone could see his bald spot in the picture.”

Think the picture is unbelievable?  WATCH THE VIDEO HERE
 
Read The Entire Article at Win-Magazine.com - CLICK HERE.

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