San Francisco Chronicle – June 17, 1953
By Will Connolly
Leo Nomellini, the 49er football player, held champion Lou Thesz to a draw last night at the Cow Palace, but Thesz retained his National Wrestling Alliance title, although he was a mighty sick man at the end.
The crowd was more than twice the number which set a previous local record for attendance at a wrestling match at Winterland last February between the same men. The Cow Palace was a virtual sellout, with 16,487 bulging the place, and the receipts were approximately $52,000.
Referee Jack Dempsey award the first fall in 23 minutes to Thesz because Nomellini refused to allow the champion back into the ring. Nomellini took the second fall of the one hour match in 18:23 with a flying tackle off the ropes followed by a body press.
There remained only about ten minutes after this second fall and the challenger had much the better of the late going. On two occasions near the end Nomellini resorted to flying tackles but both times, luckily for Thesz, part of his body was outside the ropes, hence Nomellini was not eligible to follow up with body presses.
In the waning minutes, Thesz staggered around the ring holding his ribs and stomach to indicate that Nomellini’s shoulders had hurt him there. Other times the champion sat in a neutral corner and massaged his torso.
Earlier Nomellini was angered by Thesz’ tactics of banging him in the ear with an elbow. So, in exasperation, Leo gave Lou a shoulder buck on the ropes, followed by knee drops. Leo then picked up the prostrate Thesz and body-slammed him over the top ropes. Lou hit the apron and rolled onto a platform which separated the rings from the seats. There was some delay when the champion attempted to return to the ring, as Nomellini kept pushing him out. Referee Dempsey thereupon disqualified Nomellini for failing to obey directions and with the disqualification went the first fall.
Throughout the match Thesz kept poking his head through the ropes and conferring with his manager, Ed (Strangler) Lewis, in the red corner. For this, he was jeered by the crowd. Most of the time Thesz was asking how many minutes were left.
After losing the first fall, Nomellini made a strong comeback. He slapped on a series of side headlocks which held Thesz captive for long spells. Thesz slipped out of the one headlock by executing a back body drop, but the champion caught most of Nomellini’s weight on himself and was more severely injured than the challenger.
Shortly after this Referee Dempsey caused consternation by mistakingly awarding a fall to Nomellini. Dempsey misunderstood Thesz’ gesture while he was suffering in a headlock. Dempsey thought the champ had given up and Jack so indicated to the timekeeper, who rang the bell.
However, Thesz signalled that he intended to go on.
Dean Maddox thanked the crowd from ringside in the name of Golden Gate Exchange Club, which shared in the profits for their “Fun for a Day” program.
In the semi-windup, Ray Eckert threw Legs Langevin in straight falls, the first in 13:55 with a body slam and the second in 20:08 with a leg hold. Ben and Mike Sharpe retained their tag match title by going to a draw with Enrique Torres and Bobby Bruns. Tom Rice tossed Kay Bell in 21:06 with a crab hold.