Roller Wins Straight Falls From ‘Farmer’

Tacoma Daily News – January 24, 1908
By Biddy Bishop

SEATTLE – Before a packed house, many in the audience being ladies, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Roller, physician and wrestler, last night defeated Martin “Farmer” Burns of Iowa in a catch-as-catch-can wrestling contest in the Grand Opera House by winning two straight falls, the first in 55 minutes and 15 seconds and the second in 25 minutes and 20 seconds.

Roller secured his first fall with a crotch and toe hold and a half nelson to turn his opponent on his back. The second fall was by the aid of a chancery hold, which brought forth a clever bridge from Burns which he maintained for perhaps 30 seconds or more.

The match from start to finish was a clever exhibition of strength and mat craft by both. Burns is indeed a remarkable man for his years and there are few heavyweight wrestlers at the game today who have any license to do business with him. He is strong and aggressive and holds his condition with increasing years in a most surprising manner. In every department of his make-up he appeared as young a man as Dr. Roller with the exception of the face.

Dr. Roller never wrestled better in his life than he did last night. He employed everything in his vast repertoire to down his seasoned opponent and it was necessary for him to do so. At times Roller would become irritated at his frequent unsuccessful efforts and he would put on a burst of speed that excited the audience and forced the Farmer to extend himself all the more. There was no time when the contest lagged and when referee Oscar Marbett awarded the match to Roller at the conclusion of the last fall the majority of the big crowd was pleased with the result.

Following is a detailed account of the match as it progressed during the one hour and 20 minutes and 35 seconds the men were on the mat:

At the very commencement of hostilities Roller tried for the famous Gotch toe hold, which he secured and which Burns broke. Burns got a nasty toe hold himself and Roller broke it and the same thing was repeated a moment later. Farmer then tried for a full nelson, which he secured but in his attempt to throw Roller over the doctor broke it. Burns on the roll over took a leg hold and it looked bad for Roller, but with a clever turn he disentangled himself from the Farmer’s grasp amid the shouts of the spectators.

At this point the work became heated and Roller jumped into the mix-up vigorously. He secured a nasty chancery hold on the Farmer’s body, but the veteran wiggled out of it and the men assumed their regular standing positions again. In going down on the canvas Roller worked Burns around to where he could get another toe hold. After getting it in position he started the turning over process, but the clever Burns, with great effort, straightened out his leg and with his other foot he forced Roller’s hand away and he was again free from the dangerous grip. “This trick was one of the cleverest of the match, but few of the spectators saw just how it was done.

No sooner had Burns freed himself than Roller was on top of him again. He was fighting mad and by aggressive tactics he secured a body hold on the Farmer and then took hold of his legs and raised them up. Burns did a head spin and then Roller took the toe hold again and Burns, by some unaccountable movement, raised his feet in the air and spun around on his head the second time, getting out of danger and bringing forth prolonged cheering from the crowd.

Upon resuming hostilities Roller made up his mind to dig in. Burns, too, assumed the aggressive and both men in a fast mix-up went to the mat, where Roller took a double nelson. Burns raised himself up and made a dash for his opponent and both went headlong into the crowd at the edge of the mat. Burns again broke the toe hold in a most surprising manner. This same trick was repeated four times. The fifth time Roller secured the crotch and toe hold it was impossible for Burns to get away with it. Roller then shifted his crotch hold to a half nelson when Burns was half over on his back and put both shoulders to the canvas, winning the first fall in 55 minutes and 15 seconds.

After an intermission of 12 minutes the men were at it again. Burns, anxious to even up matters, assumed the aggressive and soon had Roller underneath. Burns secured a full nelson and in the break both men tumbled into the crowd. Burns broke a bad chancery leg hold and then Roller got the toe hold again and aided by the crotch hold it looked bad for Burns, but he cleverly wiggled out of it.

After both had squared off again they went down and the doctor got his toe hold again. In a most clever manner Burns again broke it and this brought forth cheers from the audience. Both were aggressive and the work was getting to a point where the spectators were growing excited. After working up and down for several minutes, both getting in and out of bad places by fast and clever work. Roller finally got a chancery hold on Burns and when he was going over he hit the mat on his back. At this time Roller was at his waist, but he no sooner struck the mat than the doctor had nimbly jumped around to Burns’ head, where he held him from turning over. Burns bridged immediately to save himself from a fall and then came the task of getting his two shoulders to the mat.

It was almost a cinch now that Roller would get the fall for there was no way on earth for Burns to get out of his bad position. Roller had him pinned and it was only a question of how long Burns could hold up under the strain of his clever bridge.

For 28 seconds the Farmer held up, but the weight and strength of the Seattle physician was too much for him and his shoulders were gradually forced to the mat and referee Marbett slapped Roller on the shoulder in token of a fall. This fall consumed 25 minutes and 20 seconds.

Burns stated after the contest: “I have met the best man I ever wrestled, excepting Gotch. I was defeated fairly.”

Roller said he had a hard bout but was pleased with his victory. He said he owed much of his success to his trainer, Joe Carroll.


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