The FILA database shows a Finn named Johan Frederik Olin winning silver in the heavyweight Greco tournament in the 1912 Olympics. Does anyone know if this is the John Olin who beat Joe Stecher a few years later?
Yes this is the same John Olin. He finished 2nd at the Stockholm Olympics in 1922. Born in 1883, he turned pro & came to the US in 1914. Lived in Worcester. Defeated World Champion Joe Stecher on Dec. 11, 1916. A few weeks earlier it's claimed he wrestled Greco-Roman world champion Alex Aberg to a long draw that ended at 1:30 in the AM. Olin droped his World Title claim to Ed Lewis in Chicago on May 2, 1917 in a match refereed by Frank Gotch. He returned to Finnland in 1922, having earned $50,000. He died in 1926.---Steve Yohe
This is the first time I have heard of him, but it is pretty impressive.
The only thing I can dispute is that Ed Lewis told me he never met Gotch. I know we old guys forget, but Ed was not that old when he said it and I would hope meeting Frank Gotch would have left an impression.
I cannot offer any alternative to what you guys are doing, but keep in mind how large the world was at the time and how devious the promoters and newspapers could be. I am in awe and totally respect the talents you guys have as well as the desire to know the history of wrestling, but I cannot imagine the newspapers had any idea the trail they were leaving for you.
During the Olin/Lewis match, Gotch at one point seemed to be coaching Ed. This angered the Olin's Camp & they complained about it the next day. In the weeks following, Gotch gave a interview where he claimed Lewis was better that Stecher, Caddock & Wladek Zbyszko. It's pretty much a sure bet that Lewis met Gotch more than once. Maybe Lewis was trying to say he didn't know Gotch personally. That would seem to be true. He may not have talked to him outside of the ring that night. I think they both were at the Caddock/Stecher title switch. Doesn't mean they even talked.--Yohe
[This message has been edited by Steve Yohe (edited 08-19-2001).]
Olin's win started a title line that lasted 3 years. Historians became aware of it just in the last few years & Ive tryed to put it together. This is what I think it looked like:
The Olin Title Line
A) Dec. 11, 1916 Springfield, MA John Olin over Joe Stecher After 2 hrs & 40 mins without a fall, the match ended with both men brawling outside the ring. Stecher (without brother Tony) refused to continue & John Olin was declared the winner. It is later revealed that Stecher had a attack of neuritis in his shoulder. Not excepted as a title change by most of the general public. Olin, non-English speaking & mild mannered, didn’t press his claim. Reasons are unclear: perhaps fans considered Olin a inferior wrestler & not able to truly beat Stecher or perhaps people still thought of Gotch as the true champion. This did start a title line called the Olin line.
B) May 2, 1917 Chicago Ed “Strangler” Lewis over John Olin After 2 hrs & 37 mins, John Olin concedes match due to a shoulder injury. Referee was Frank Gotch & he praised Lewis as the best. Not as mild mannered as Olin. Lewis proclaimed himself Champion of the World. He is 2nd champion in the Olin line.
C) June 5, 1917 San Francisco Wladek Zbyszko over Ed “Strangler” Lewis by WOF Zbyszko defeats Lewis by winning the only fall (via rolling pin) in a 2/3 fall match that lasted 2 ˝ hrs. Match almost is cancelled when promoter realizes his guarantees were more than his gate.
D) July 4, 1917 Boston Ed “Strangler” Lewis over Wladek Zbyszko Lewis wins his title back when Wladek is unable to continue dueing the 3nd fall. Zbyszko won 1st fall after a body roll into a pin (57:45). Lewis then pinned Zbyszko using a half-nelson in 24:44 after Wladek had injured his right elbow & leg. Zbyszko gamely started the 3nd fall, but was thrown to the mat and submitted in 45 seconds. Lewis is anounced as new World Champion.
I) Dec. 22, 1917 NYC Wladek Zbyszko over Ed “Strangler” Lewis In a NYC tournament finial for the World Title, Zbyszko pins Lewis using a Body hold combined with a scissors in 1:47:37. Lewis had heard his manager arguing with Zbyszko’s camp & turned his head & got trapped in Wladek’s finishing hold. Zbyszko is proclaimed World Champion not from beating Lewis but from winning tournament. The Olin claim was not on the line and Lewis’s head holds were not allowed to be used in match.
*) June 21, 1918 Omaha Earl Caddock over Ed “Strangler” Lewis via decision Caddock won a referee’s decision over Lewis after 2 hrs & 30 mins. It was said Caddock outclassed The Strangler but was unable to pin him. Lewis & manager Billy Sandow continued to claim the world title via the Olin Line.
E) March 21, 1919 NYC Wladek Zbyszko over Ed “Strangler” Lewis Wladek picked Lewis up in a body hold and threw him to the canvas to be pined in 1:34:36. Match sold out MSG with 5,000 turned away. Promoter Curley promised to refund admission money if their was no winner. Lewis lost claim to Olin Line World Title.
F) May 9, 1919 Louisville Joe Stecher over Wladek Zbyszko Stecher defeats Wladek in 1:45:15 in a world title match that follows the Olin Line.
3) Jan. 30, 1920 NYC Joe Stecher over Earl Caddock In tournament finial, Stecher pined Caddock using a body scissors & wrist lock in 2:05:30. Stecher is undisputed World Champ.
Now, did John Olin (or a Manager of his) ever claim the World Title himself before losing to Lewis or started the line with Lewis claiming to beat the man (Olin) who beat the champ (Stecher)?
Reading "ON THE MAT AND OFF: MEMOIRS OF A WRESTLER" by Hjalmar Lundin, I've come upon some ideas about the Stecher/Olin title change. On page 132 Lundin, who managed Olin and got him the match with Stecher, seems to say that, before the match, Olin was willing to do the job & said: "You speak Stecher...he not go so fast...me give good show". So Lundin went to Stecher's dressing room but the manager Tony Stecher wasn't present & he saw no use in talking to Joe. Lundin went back to Olin and told him that: "Stecher says he will beat you in one minute". This upset John who said "Oh..no..not one minute."
During the match, Stecher couldn't hold Olin in the scissors because the finn could do a very high bridge & break it. Joe was getting upset & Olin was exhausted. John told Lundin, he wanted a draw because that would have been a huge thing at that time in Stecher's career. Lundin knew Joe didn't look good & told Olin that there was a finn in the audience who had bet $1,000 on him and would shoot him if he quit. So Olin continued. Half an hour later, Stecher quit.
Now the book says that Olin was told he was the new champion & Olin's words were "Me...no champion...me country boy...no speaka English..you maka..little money..maybe".
So it's not clear but it may be that Olin refused the title. More later.
Lundin says he's sure that it would have been a draw if Tony Stecher had been present. Seeing the condition of both wrestlers, he is sure that Tony would have come to him with the offer & Lundin would have taken it because he knew Olin wanted to quit.
All Joe had to say was "It's all in the game" and was a good loser.
Later in the book on page 143, while talking about Jack Sherry & different world champion claims, says "Years ago a title holder was the champion throughout the country. John Olin defeated the holder of the crown, Joe Stecher, but the former refused the honor, and after that I could not follow up the reign."
So it seems we have the true manager of Olin saying that the title was refused on that night. Perhaps for more money. And that seems to be the reason Stecher could continue his title claim.---Steve Yohe
To give you an answer, I'd have to dig out my piles of WAWLI and wade through them. I'll try to do that in the next few days, but maybe someone else can put a hand on that more quickly. Maybe OFG has a computerized index/data base.
quote:Originally posted by Steve Yohe: C) June 5, 1917 San Francisco Wladek Zbyszko over Ed ďż˝Stranglerďż˝ Lewis by WOF Zbyszko defeats Lewis by winning the only fall (via rolling pin) in a 2/3 fall match that lasted 2 ďż˝ hrs. Match almost is cancelled when promoter realizes his guarantees were more than his gate.
Could someone please tell me whether this match had a two-hour time limit or was ended by the curfew (or another reason)?
[ 05-04-2009, 07:21 PM: Message edited by: Mark Madison ]
San Francisco CA: June 5, 1917 (Civic Aud) ... Wladek Zbyszko beat Ed (Strangler) Lewis (1-0, 2:30:00) â€¦ Promoter: Charley Newman â€¦ NOTE: Zbyszko takes only fall (a fluke, at 1:12:00) of a scheduled best two-of-three affair â€¦ The match was nearly canceled when the promoter realized his guarantees ($7,500) exceeded his gross gate ($3,400) â€¦ Finally, he persuaded Jack Curley to let Zbyszko wrestle for $1,400 and Billy Sandow to let Lewis wrestle for $2,000 â€¦ On top of that, a lawyer named Fabius T. Finch walked up with Sheriff Tom Finn and attached the gate receipts for a saloon bill of $1,300 that he said Newman owed for ten years â€¦ Then, when Finch was talking to Call Bulletin columnist Marion T. Salazar, Newman landed a right hand on his chin â€¦ â€śIâ€™ll show you how to go around blackening my character,â€ť he hissed â€¦ Jack Kearns and Harry Foley were Newmanâ€™s partners in the venture.
WRESTLING SHOW ALMOST OFF; ROW OVER MONEY (San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, June 6, 1917)
The widely billed wrestling match between Ed Lewis and Zbyszko came near not materializing last night at the Civic Auditorium. One large row over finances resulted when the discovery was made after 9 o'clock that there was only something like $836 in the boxoffice. Lewis had been guaranteed $3,000 for his end, with $1000 already deposited in the Bank of Italy by Charley Newman, and Zbyszko had been promised $2,000, with $1,100 expense money.
Newman, on whom the responsibility for making up the deficit was placed, refused to "come through." He said Harry Foley and Jack Kearns were his partners in the venture, and they should shoulder their one-third apiece. Foley and Kearns declared that Newman was handling all of the financial end of the affair.
It looked like the match would be called off and the money refunded to the spectators who were getting restless all the while the controversy was going on. Finally, a compromise was reached. Jack Curley, for Zbyszko, agreed to accept $1400 and Sandow, for Lewis, would take $2,000.
Twice the match was called off, and during all the squabbling the spectators that had been kept waiting for hours were growing impatient. Chairs were thrown about and there were wild clamors for the return of the money that had been paid in with the expectation of seeing the wrestlers get into the ring at 9:30. The situation grew so serious that a hurry-up call was sent to the police department and a squad of bluecoats came on the scene.
Trouble was averted when Charles Newman agreed to give his personal check to guarantee the sums agreed upon in the compromise. On this condition the men went into the ring and at 10:58 started grappling. The understanding was that they would go two hours and a half if the police did not call at halt at midnight.
Not alone was Newman the storm center of the managers and wrestlers hollering for their money, but F.T. Finch, an attorney, put an attachment on the box for $1,325, which he claimed was due on a judgment that had been secured against Newman before the fire.
Newman took exception to the procedure and swung a right to Finch's jaw. There was a general mix-up for several minutes. That matter was also straightened out when Newman paid Finch $300. ++++
ZBYSZKO GAINS ONE FALL AND THE MATCH (San Francisco Chronicle, Wednesday, June 6, 1917)
In the belated wrestling match between Wladek Zbyszko and Strangler Ed Lewis that was almost called off because of the financial differences with Charlie Newman refusing to make good on the purse of $6,000, Zbyszko was the winner.
The match started at 10:55 and was brought to a close at 1:45 a.m. Zbyszko gained the only fall of the match, on a fluke, and that gave him the victory. Lewis had the Pole against the ropes. Wladek grabbed the ropes, with Lewis tugging from behind. Referee Andrews ordered Zbyszko to release his hold, and when he did so, Lewis fell back. Wladek fell on top and that gave him a flying fall.
Other than that Lewis was the aggressor and entitled to all the honors. It was a good match to watch, once it started. ++++
[ 05-04-2009, 08:18 PM: Message edited by: Old Fall Guy ]
-------------------- "Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate." -- Thomas Jones
It should be noted that Stecher married Frances Ehlers in Omaha on 12-7-16. The loss to John Olin was on 12-11-16. Joe was on his honeymoon. That explains why Tony wasn't present.--Steve Yohe
(Excerpted from "On the Mat â€“ And Off: Memoirs of a Wrestler," by Hjalmar Lundin, 1937, Albert Bonnier, New York)
By Hjalmar Lundin
(ED. NOTE â€“ We are in possession of this book thanks to the kind auspices of Avo Siismets. The match herein detailed occurred in December, 1916, and represents a distinct "blip" in the chronology of the worldâ€™s heavyweight wrestling championship. As it was Strangler Lewis who next hung a defeat on John Olin, it is therefore reasonable to assume that Lewis, and subsequently, Wladek Zbyszko, were champions as early as 1917, contrary to the "official" history of the old National Wrestling Alliance.)
My wife and I were in Stockholm during the Olympic Games in 1912, and during the course of events there was a Finn, John Olin, who took second prize for wrestling in the heavyweight class. We didnâ€™t take any particular notice of him then, but had cause to a few years later.
Olin was born in 1883, and after his success in the Games in â€™12 he decided to turn professional. In 1914 he came here to try his luck. He went directly to Worcester (Mass.) where he met a fellow Finn who could act as interpreter and manager for him, and they started for the West. Unfortunately for Olinâ€™s purse-strings, neither had had any experience in the professional game, and John came back, "sadder but wiser" to the tune of a $1,500 deficit. Back in Worcester again he decided to open a steam-bat business, which proved to be a paying proposition, but no more than that.
Just about that time I was invited to attend a banquet in Worcester. I arrived early in the evening and, having heard that my old acquaintance Alex Aberg was to wrestle the same evening, I decided to see the match since my banquet affair was not scheduled to begin until 11 p.m.
I had not seen Olin since the Games and was rather surprised to see him matched with Aberg. I had no idea the Olympic contestant would be any sort of a match for Aberg whom I knew to be one of Europeâ€™s best Greco-Roman wrestlers, and when the match continued a little longer than I expected, I attributed it to the fact that Aberg was trying to give the fans a little extra for their money. About 10:30 I was getting ready to leave for the other side of town where the banquet was to take place when I suddenly realized that Aberg was not "giving" anything but a hard struggle, and that Olin was far superior than I had thought him to be. I promptly forgot all about the banquet and my eyes were glued to the mat until 1:30 a.m. when the match was stopped and called a draw.
I went in to Abergâ€™s dressing room after the match and he told me then and there that the match with Olin was the greatest surprise of his life. No one had suspected that Olin was as good a bridger, nor as defensive a wrestler as he actually proved to be that night.
Four or five months later during a visit in Springfield, I met my old comrade Jim Barnes who told me he had Joe Stecher, the champion then, booked for the next show, but had no opponent for him. Stecher had beaten almost everyone of repute in the country, with the exception only of Strangler Lewis, and it was a problem to get hold of a man who could give the sensational Joe some kind of a battle.
I told Barnes about Olin, and after my description he asked me to contact him, if I could, when I got to Worcester, where I was headed the following day. The terms, he said, would be $100 guaranty, or 15 percent of the gross receipts.
I saw Olin the next day, and struggled through the proposition with him. John knew very little Swedish and almost less English but I finally got the idea over to him that I wanted him to wrestle Stecher. He answered in his staccato voice, "Me lose."
I wasnâ€™t quite sure whether that was put in the form of a question, a statement that he WOULD lose if he wrestled Stecher, or he was WILLING to lose. I decided that it was one thing or another, and although the trip out West might not have been profitable financially, it looked to me as though he had learned some of the tactics of the game!
Nevertheless, I replied in the clearest word and manner I could muster, "No, no, if you beat Stecher you be champion."
Then he said, slowly but quite clearly, "How . . . much . . . money?" That question came with little or no difficulty.
When I told him the terms he replied, "Me . . . take . . . $100 . . . money . . . before . . . go . . . mat."
To my query as to whether or not he wanted to sign a contract, he said, "Me . . . no . . . contract . . . me . . . be . . . there."
I personally felt that he wouldnâ€™t stand much more of a chance than the others, because although he was an excellent Greco-Roman grappler, his experience with the catch-as-catch-can style was very limited.
On my return to Springfield I accepted the 15 percent of the gross terms, because I figured the house would net between $1,500 and $2,000 which, with the aid of a little simple arithmetic would mean more than the $100 guaranty.
Stecher, who bore a fine, clean record, was a tremendous drawing card when booked with a man who had at least a little reputation. Olin, however, was scarcely known, the fans who did see the match (an $1,800 house) went for the sake of seeing the champion. The majority expected the match would be a push-over.
Just prior to the match, I noticed Olin pacing up and down the lockerroom, a worried expression on his face. He finally came over to me and said, "You . . . speak . . . Stecher . . . he . . . not . . . go . . . so . . . fast . . . me . . . give . . . good . . . show."
To satisfy him I went in to Stecherâ€™s dressing room. We shook hand and talked for a little while but naturally I said nothing to Stecher or his manager for I knew that no one could influence Stecher to do anything but his usual wrestling â€“ his best!
I returned a few minutes later and Olin immediately inquired as to what Stecher had said. I wanted Olin to forget his nervousness by making him angry, so I said, "Stecher says he will beat you in one minute."
"Oh . . . no . . . not . . . one . . . minute," was all Olin said, and I knew his self confidence was climbing.
Jim Barnes was the promoter and referee, which meant that if Olin stood any chance at all with the champion he would get a fair deal.
The wrestlers were on their feet for the first ten minutes, and then things began to happen so fast they landed on one side of the mat, near the ropes. Barnes ordered them to the center of the ring and to take the exact positions they had while near the ropes. They took their orders from Barnes as a soldier takes his from a superior officer.
After wrestling half an hour, Stecher took his famous body-scissors and almost at once the crowd voice their opinion â€“ it would soon be over. However, Stecher found that this was a horse of another color and the match was nowhere near the end. He kept the scissors and worked a barlock on Olinâ€™s left arm for about 15 minutes, when it looked as though it was paralyzed. Then Stecher began to turn John over on his back â€“ the crowd hollering, "Itâ€™s all over now!"
They were wrong again, for Olin went into a high bridge and his opponent could not hold him â€“ John was up on his feet once more. The crowd roared their excitement. I could plainly see that the champion was more than perplexed when his favorite holds were not working out as they had always done before. They wrestled up and down for quite a while before Joe again took another body scissors, which he held for 14 minutes; for a second time Olin bridged himself out of the serious position.
I saw that Stecher was losing heart, which is a sad factor in any match, and I knew that Olin was nearly exhausted. Then John said something in Finnish to the man in his corner who turned around and told me on the quiet that Olin wanted to quit. He felt he had done more than anyone else by remaining so long with the champion, and he was ready to end it. Knowing that Stecher felt the same way himself, I had to think fast.
"Tell Olin a Finn in the audience has bet $1,000 on him and will shoot him if he quits."
John must have valued his life because when he heard that threat all thoughts of quitting left him and the wrestlers continued another half hour when Stecher walked off the mat. John Olin was declared the winner! When I told him he was the new champion, he merely said, "Me . . . no . . . champion . . . me . . . country . . . boy . . . no . . . speaka . . . English . . you . . . me . . . make . . . little . . . money . . . maybe." That was all the fuss he made out of his championship match.
It is no more than fair to state here, however, that it must have been an off-night for Joe. For one thing, Joe had always had his brother Tony, also a well known wrestler, with him and it was probably the only night of his career while champion that his close companion was not by his side. Had Tony been present, I am quite certain he would have come to me while the match was in its last stages and proposed to have it stopped and a called a draw.
Naturally if he had been there and had such a suggestion been made, I would have been only too glad to accept it, because I was afraid that my own man, Olin, was going to quit any moment, despite the fictitious threat.
His winning the match was as great a surprise to me as it was to everyone else, on the mat â€“ and off! Stecher was a fine loser and only said, "Itâ€™s all in the game." It just proved again that a manâ€™s "second" is often to be credited with winning a match. It was Olinâ€™s lucky break, and Joeâ€™s hard luck, that Tony Stecher was not present that evening, but then again, perhaps Fate had something to do with it.
The day after the upset, Olin wanted me to be his manager but refused to sign on the dotted line. I received several offers for bookings and accepted them. Olin went back to Worcester and I returned to New York. Meanwhile Olin was getting offers from various parts of the country and the bright prospects looked so promising to him he completley forgot about me and the dates I had accepted for him. For example, when I had him booked in Baltimore one night I wired him in Worcester to be sure to go to Maryland. Instead of being in Massachusetts, he was in Chicago.
Before the day passed, six wires had been sent to him. He finally showed up in Baltimore ten minutes before he was scheduled to appear â€“ before a house packed to capacity. He gave me a perpetual headache in those days, but shortly after the match in Baltimore he came to me and said, "Me . . . stay . . . with . . . you. Everybody . . . else . . . crooky."
Olin was as stubborn as a mule in many respects, but we managed to get along very nicely. He trusted very few people, the ladies included, but he knew I was on the level with him. He was single at the time and occasionally wanted to splurge by taking a girl out. Inevitably he would report to me in the morning, "Girls . . . nice . . . but . . . me . . . spend . . . too . . . much . . . money."
He simply hated to part with a greenback, and thoroughly believed in the slogan, "Itâ€™s not what you make, itâ€™s what you save." An acquaintance once said, "Olin wouldnâ€™t spend a nickel to see the Statue of Liberty turn a somersault."
In 1922, John went back to his native country with a $50,000 bankroll, so he certainly felt that Lady Luck had been with him. Upon his return home he married and settled down on a lovely estate, ready to enjoy life and get some benefit from his savings, but Fate again had something to say, and four years later the old motor which eventually goes back on all of us, stopped, and Olin was taken to meet his Maker.
[ 09-23-2009, 10:10 AM: Message edited by: Mark Madison ]
Stecher Beats Olin on Mat. SPRINGFIELD, Mass., Dec. 15.--Joe Stecher of Nebraska defeated John Olin of New York at wrestling tonight in two hours, two minutes and thirty seconds with an arm scissors, the only fall of the match. Olin was unable to continue because of a wrenched muscle in his left shoulder. [New York Times, Tuesday, December 16, 1919]
This match is also mentioned in Steve Yohe's compilation of "The Major Matches of 1915 to 1920" (to be found in the thread of the same name), and I thought it was the first and only rematch between the two grapplers. Then I found this in the WAWLI Papers #123 (Olin's appearances in Norfolk -mentioned by ttf some posts above- are from the same papers):
December 10, 1919 in Norfolk, VA (Pickwick Hall) Joe Stecher beat John Olin, 2-0
Are any details known? Does someone have an original account?
[ 09-23-2009, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: Mark Madison ]