If you wrestled in the 70s, you know this poster.
It happened at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in Greco-Roman wrestling. The guy on top is the USA’s Chris Taylor, age 22. He weighed around 444 pounds, maybe less, sometimes more.
The little fella on bottom is West Germany’s Wilfred Dietrich, 38, who weighed in at 287. Both he and Taylor were representing their nations at super heavyweight, each in both Freestyle and Greco.
Beginning in 1956, often competing in both FS and Greco, Deitrich medaled in five Olympics and five world championships, taking Olympic gold in 1960, and the world championship in 1961. During a seven-year run from 1955 to 1972, he never lost in Freestyle.
Taylor beat Dietrich in FS by decision at the 72 Olympics, and went on to win Bronze, after losing a controversial decision to Russia’s Aleksander Medved. But a few days later, in Greco, although he did not go on to medal, Wilfred Dietrich hit what many people call the greatest throw in wrestling history.
It was set up by a surreptitious, seemingly friendly hug (rather than the customary handshake), so Dietrich could see if he could reach his arms around Taylor.
“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 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. Keep in mind, the match was in Germany and this was Dietrich’s home mat, so he was trying to gain every advantage possible.”
The greatest throw in wrestling history was not without controversy.
“I can tell you exactly what happened because I was four feet from it," said Alan Rice, 1972 Olympic Greco-Roman head coach. "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, also vividly recalled what happened.
“Dietrich was working for a double underhook the entire match," said Baughman. "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 souplesse. 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.'”
Dietrich still holds the record for most Olympic medals in wrestling, with five. He passed away from a heart attack on June 3, 1992, in Durbanville, South Africa. He was 58, and is buried in his hometown of Schifferstadt, Germany.
Chris Taylor died in his sleep, June 30, 1979, in Story City, IA, USA. He was just 29 years old.
“The only thing Chris was upset about is that he let the whole thing happen,” said Taylor’s widow Lynne Lawrence. “He always used to joke that everyone could see his bald spot in the picture.”
H/T to BJJEE, FightingArts, and WIN-magazine.