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Undefeated Women’s Wrestling Champion Dies At Age 73

February 21, 1989

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Mildred Burke, a 20-year women’s world wrestling champion who attributed her success to her muscular build and her alligator clutch hold, has died at age 73 after a stroke.

Ms. Burke, who was 5-foot-2, 138 pounds in her wrestling prime, had such a well-muscled build that the Police Department once displayed her poster in its offices to shame its officers into staying in shape.

She died Saturday at Northridge Hospital. She suffered a stroke Feb. 14.

Ms. Burke, wrestling champion from 1936 to 1956, claimed to have invented the alligator clutch, a pinning maneuver in which the wrestler twists his opponent into something resembling a pretzel and then sits on him.

″She was totally feminine,″ said her son, Joseph Wolfe of Canoga Park. ″More than anything else, she stressed being very feminine and a loving mother.″

She claimed to have won more than 150 matches against men and more than 5,000 against women. She claimed to have never lost.

″I’ve had two or three girls say they beat me and I’ve threatened to take them to court because they never even wrestled me,″ she said in 1981.

Born in Coffeyville, Kan., Ms. Burke started wrestling in 1935 on the carnival circuit. She offered $25 to any man of similar weight who could pin her within 10 minutes. It was reported that no one ever did.

She was listed in ″Ripley’s Believe It or Not″ for doing 100 body bridges - arching the body face up - on the desk of Ripley’s editor.

In her later years she operated a wrestling school in Encino.

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