Make no bones about it. Chris Taylor is one of the greatest wrestlers of all time not just at Iowa State, but in the entire world. The Michigan native won two NCAA national championships at Iowa State as a heavyweight. No weight limits existed in either the NCAA or Olympics, so Taylor often wrestled while weighing in well clear of 400 pounds. Even for his incredible size, Taylor was an extremely technically gifted wrestler with surprising quickness. Entering the 1972 Munich Olympics, 22 year-old Chris Taylor was expected to be one of the gold medal favorites in both freestyle and Greco-Roman.
In the freestyle semifinals, Taylor was matched up with Aleksandr Medved from the USSR, and experienced and accomplished freestyler.
In the middle of the match, it appeared Medved was stalling, but the referee awarded a point to the Soviet, charging Taylor with a lack of action. Later on, the referee admitted that he awarded the point to Medved because he “felt sorry for Medved due to Taylor’s size.”
HE FELT SORRY FOR HIM.
Unsurprisingly, the official was immediately removed from the 1972 Olympics and banned from officiating any future matches.
After settling for bronze in the freestyle, Taylor then switched over to Greco-Roman, where he met West Germany’s Wilfred Dietrich, 38, in the early rounds. While both competed in the super heavyweight division, at 287 pounds, Deitrich was clearly at a serious size disadvantage to Taylor. The story behind what would become known as one of the greatest throws in the history of wrestling is an incredible one.
“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.”
Which brings us to the throw.
Without a doubt, Dietrich flat out lifting the 440-pound Taylor directly off the mat is an impressive feat, one that even Taylor admitted he didn’t think was possible.
“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,” said Wayne Baughman, a 198-pound member of the 1972 Olympic Greco-Roman team.
However, Dietrich should have never been allowed to roll Taylor over and pin him.
“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.”
In conclusion, Chris Taylor, unarguably one of the greatest heavyweights of all time, was robbed of not one, but two chances at Olympic gold.
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