The Deseret News – October 22, 1898
The art of wrestling is one of the most ancient forms of athletic exercise and long antedates boxing. The old Greek heroes used to practice it, and it was one of the favorite sports at their games. Homer in his immortal “Iliad” speaks of a wrestling match between the great Ulysses and Ajax.
The Greeks, however, were not the inventors of the art, for they learned it from the Egyptians, and it was also well known to the Phoenicians.
Ever since wrestling has been practiced in the peninsula formed by the countries of Turkey and Greece, and famous exponents of the sport are to be found there today. In Turkey the sultan is a great patron of the wrestlers and keeps a number of them to afford him amusement. The pashas and other rich men of the Ottoman empire also have their favorite wrestlers, to whom they give big sums of money besides backing them against other strong men.
Some months ago one of these Turkish wrestlers came to this country and challenged any man in America to throw him. He went under the title of Ismaiel Yousouf, the “Terrible Turk,” and relied as much upon his ability to frighten an opponent by his terrible facial contortions as upon his knowledge of the art. After several encounters with a number of our well known wrestlers he took passage for Europe on the ill fated steamer Bourgogne, which was sunk after a collision on the banks of Newfoundland. Yousouf was drowned, because, it was stated, he had incumbered himself with a large belt filled with gold coins.
Another Turkish wrestler has recently come to this country to win fame and American dollars. He is said to be an undefeated champion in his own land. His manager and backer, Antonio Pierri, says that he defeated Yousouf at Adrianopolis in 1893, in a terrible struggle which lasted four hours.
The newcomer, whose name is Halil Adali, does not pride himself so much upon his great strength, which was Yousouf’s boast, as upon his skill. He told me, through his manager, that since his victory over Yousouf five years ago he has met and defeated every wrestler in Turkey. His record includes victories over Panali, a giant of the sultan’s house guards, whose back he claims to have broken in a public encounter; Aner Malcousouf, a gigantic Armenian; Kara Osman, Felix Nola, Ibrahim, and Kara Ahmet, all prominent wrestlers of the palace. Adali was waiting for another chance at the “Terrible Turk” when news arrived of his untimely taking off. Having conquered all rivals in his native land he was easily persuaded to seek new fields in America.
Adali wears his national costume and is an extremely picturesque figure in baggy blue breeches drawn tight around the calves and ankles, a broad maroon sash and short blue jacket. On his head is perched the regular maroon fez surrounded by a multicolored turban, which he wears with a rakish tilt. His hair is cropped short. He is 6 feet 2 inches in height and weighs 225 pounds when in condition, though when I saw him he was considerably above that figure owing to enforced idleness on board ship. He has, however, secured training quarters in a gymnasium and is rapidly rounding into shape. His chest measurement is 47 inches, his waist 36 inches and his thigh 27 inches. The circumference of his neck is 19 inches, and he measures 17 ½ inches around the biceps.
When I called on him he and his manager were at luncheon. If the Turk prove as good a wrestler as he is a trencherman he certainly is a wonder. He ate enough while I was present to satisfy four pretty hungry men and topped it all off with several plates of ice cream.
Adali is a native of Adrianopolis and is of a family the male members of which have been famous wrestlers for many generations. During the time when the sultan and his court are away from Constantinople and Adali is not required to be on duty he lives at his country villa, high up in the Balkan mountains. I asked his manager how many wives he had, for, contrary to the teachings of the Koran, many wealthy Mussulmans practice polygamy.
“Only one wife,” was the reply. “I told you he was a very sensible man,” and I thought I detected the faintest suggestion of a twinkle in Pierri’s eye as he said this.
Adali has one son, a boy of 5, of whom he is very fond, and whom he intends to train to be a wrestler. Adali wanted to bring the little fellow to America with him, but was dissuaded from doing so.
It is the custom in Turkey to call the famous wrestlers by some special title or nickname. Adali’s is the “Sultan’s Lion.”
He says that he is willing to meet American wrestlers at any style, Greco-Roman and catch as catch can preferred. Should he be successful in his engagement here it is his intention to make a tour of India. Many of the nizams, rajahs and maharajahs of that country keep wrestlers and strong men just as is the custom in Turkey. Halil thinks he could make lots of money and have a pretty easy thing of it against most of them. He may also make a trip to Japan where there are many experts, for wrestling is the national sport of the Land of the Chrysanthemum.