Wrestler Dies In Stadium Bout; Inquiry Called As Rival Held

Washington Post – June 26, 1936
By Bill McComick

Mike Romano, veteran wrestler, died on the mat before 5,000 people at Griffith Stadium last night.

The 40-year-old native of Trieste, Italy, was being counted out by referee Cyclone Burns after 13 – minutes of a match with Jack Donovan, of Boston, when he became unconscious.

Physicians and ringside officials made frantic efforts to revive him in the ring as the crowd, always doubtful of happenings in the grappling game, remained skeptically indifferent to his plight.

The stricken athlete finally was removed from the squared circle on a stretcher. In back of the stands, away from the gaze of the crowd, Dr. H.N. Roberts and L. Calfee, a chiropractor, said Romano gave no indications of life.

Romano was removed in a police patrol to Freedmen’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. A doctor at the hospital ascribed the death to a broken neck. Two physicians who examined him at the ball park gave it as their unofficial opinion that death was due to heart disease.

An inquest will be held at noon today to determine the cause of death.

Donovan, Romano’s opponent in the fatal bout, is in the custody of Detective Sergt. Walter Beck. He is being held pending action by the coroner’s jury. The jury probably will meet tomorrow to decide whether charges are to be brought against Donovan.

The bout, which had been scheduled to one fall or a 30-minute time limit, had been remarkably clean and devoid of rough tactics throughout. There were not more than a half-dozen “slams” in the entire 13 – minutes the contest lasted.

There had been no “wide open” action for several minutes preceding the finish. After they each had exchanged several holds, Donovan finally eased Romano to the mat and applied a head scissors – which consists of wrapping the legs about the head – and wrist lock – twisting the wrist with both hands.

Referee Burns counted three over the form of the athlete who was never to rise again.

“I felt Romano go a bit limp as we stood locked in a corner,” Donovan said. “We went to the mat and I applied the head scissors and wrist lock. As I held him in that hold he gave a gasp and I relaxed the hold, which I hadn’t been holding very tight, anyway. Then Burns counted him out.”

Romano has been wrestling about 18 years. He lived at 3759 Warren Street, Elmhurst, Long Island, New York. He was married and had one child, a girl of 11.

Romano, a world war hero, had been decorated by the Italian army.

With true “the show must go on” fortitude, other wrestlers scheduled to follow the fatal bout, which was the first on the program, gave the 5,000 fans – few of whom knew that Romano was dead – more than a run for their money.

In the bout immediately following the Romano-Donovan mishap, Joe Dusek and Hank Barber went 30 minutes to a rousing draw. In another 30-minute supporting bout, Ivan Managoff pinned Emil Dusek in 20 – minutes.

Rudy Dusek, another of the four Dusek brothers whose appearance en masses on the card had attracted the large crowd, forced Joe Cox to resign after 22 minutes of a bout scheduled to a finish. Rudy was punishing Cox unmercifully with an arm bar lock when George cried “hold – enough.”

Ernie Dusek, who appeared in the final bout, scored a 20 -minute victory over George Koverly, thereby precipitating an ante-bout riot. Dusek literally battered his rough, tough opponent into submission to win the official victory, then Koverly went berserk.

Swinging wildly, George floored referee Benny Bortnick. A flock of seconds entered the ring and Koverly started punching them around. Ernie started to wrestle again – without benefit of referee as Bortnick lay in a daze on the mat.

Benny finally rose and Koverly floored him again. At that point, Ernie swung a knockout punch which really kayoed Koverly. He was revived, very peaceful and escorted from the ring by a cordon of police who had surrounded the fighting pit during the hectic action.

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