George Kidd, wrestler and broadcaster; born 1925, died January 5, 1998

George Kidd, Scotland's wrestling legend whose devotion to yoga was one of the factors which allowed him to reign as a world champion, has died at the age of 72.

Known as ''the Houdini of

the mat'' because of his ability

to escape from even the most complex holds, Kidd reigned supreme for 26 consecutive years as lightweight wrestling champion of the world.

Successfully defending his title no fewer than 49 times, Kidd's unparalleled achievements in the grappling game only ended when he resigned his championship and retired from the sport in 1976.

Believing that over-exposure would turn the sport he loved into a pantomime, he rarely wrestled on television. Yet, during the fifties and sixties, when wrestling took on new life as one of the nation's favourite spectator sports, his unique

style and apparent invincibility secured him recognition as a sportsman of national and international renown.

His laugh-a-minute role as presenter of Wednesday People and The George Kidd Show also made him a household name in Scottish broadcasting, and viewers voted him Grampian Television Personality of the Year in 1965.

Juggling his TV commitments with his on-going programme of wrestling bouts, Kidd publicly shared banter with many of the celebrities of the day, including Frankie Vaughan, Dickie Henderson, and Lance Percival.

But for all his good humour on screen, Kidd's performance in the ring was driven by a killer instinct and ruthless competitive spirit.

His wrestling career began in the late 1940s after he left the Royal Navy's fleet air arm, and his rise to the top was nothing less than meteoric. In four successive years from 1947 he snatched first the Scottish, then the British, European, and World lightweight championship titles.

In the course of more than 1000 bouts, Kidd out-wrestled some of the sport's greatest stars, including Mick McManus, Alan Colebeck, Adrian Street, Jon Cortez, Jackie Pallo, Eddie Cappelli, Al Miquet, Zoltan Boschic, and Ken Joyce.

He was only defeated on a handful of occasions, and frustrated opponents maintained that the unstoppable champion must have been double-jointed. But

in truth, his phenomenal success stemmed from a lifelong dedication to the eastern discipline of hatha yoga.

Where other wrestlers concentrated solely on developing

muscle bulk, Kidd, a slight

5ft 6in, preferred to augment his training regime of running and weights with yogic muscle-stretching exercises.

As well as developing his characteristic suppleness, Kidd claimed that yoga's meditative element focused his mind, and grapple fans across the world bore witness to the calculated and scientific manner in which Kidd disposed of his opponents.

Using their own weight as a tool against them, Kidd, fighting at 10st 10lbs, could easily fell challengers even five stone heavier than himself.

His unique interpretation of the Graeco-Roman style, fav-oured in the rings of continental Europe, inspired many imitators and produced some of the finest lightweight wrestling the world has ever seen.

His concentration between the ropes allowed him to out-smart his opponents as well as out-wrestle them, and his belief in the integrity of his sport meant that he rejected the gimmicks favoured by other high-profile wrestlers. He was a consummate showman who allowed the quality of his wrestling to speak for itself.

Born and bred in Dundee, Kidd's talents were quickly recognised, and even during his school days he was known as ''the Wee Wrestler''.

He left an apprenticeship as a joiner to enlist in the Royal Navy as a mechanic during the Second World War.

After his retirement from wrestling in the mid-1970s, Kidd owned a series of pubs in the city of his birth. But after the death of his beloved wife, Hester, he chose to live in

relative solitude in Dundee's Broughty Ferry suburb.

He is survived by his son, George.