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Smith vs. Nazarova is the “Bout of the Week” on USA Wrestling Audio/Video website

Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
11/09/2007


USA Wrestling has updated its new "Bout of the Week" which has been posted as a video file on-line on TheMat.com Audio/Video website .

The featured match this week is the 2007 Iris Smith vs. Daria Nazarova gold-medal finals in women's freestyle at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. at the Sunkist Kids International Open in Chandler, Ariz.

The match featured Smith, a 2005 World champion in women's wrestling, against Nazarova, one of the world's top young talents on the women's scene. With the Olympic Games only months away, this showdown has major significance on the international scene.

Iris Smith took an unconventional road to the top of the wrestling world. A high school wrestler in Georgia, Smith did not follow the route of many women wrestlers by going to a college program. Instead, Smith moved out to Colorado Springs, Colo. to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, even though at that time there was no resident athlete programs for women. Women's wrestling had not yet been named to the Olympics. Smith often had to work out with men athletes at the time, but started to succeed in the major women's tournaments.

Smith placed at the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials for five years, but did not make it to the No. 1 position in the weight class until the 2000 season. She won the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials that season, and placed seventh at the 2000 World Championships. In 2001, Smith again captured the U.S. Nationals and World Team Trials, but decided to join the U.S. Army and its World Class Athlete Program. Because of military commitments for boot camp, both Smith and Tina George had to skip the World meet that year. A Special Wrestle-off was held for the two spots, and Jenna Pavlik replaced Smith on the U.S. roster.

The 2002 season was the first of a number of challenging years for Smith. Women's wrestling had been named as an Olympic sport, with four weight classes, and a USOC women's resident program had been created. Toccara Montgomery, a World silver medalist at 68 kg, decided to move up to the 72 kg class, and defeated Smith for the spot on the U.S. team. For three straight seasons, Smith was unable to get past Montgomery within the USA. Her toughest year was 2004, when she dropped to fourth at both the U.S. Nationals and Olympic Team Trials.

Rather than give up, Smith stayed with it, and was rewarded in 2005. Montgomery had retired, and Smith picked up her game. She won the U.S. Nationals, then the World Team Trials, and earned another chance at the World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. With the most inspired wrestling of her career, Smith won the World gold medal, beating multiple World champion Kyoko Hamaguchi of Japan in the championship match.

Daria Nazarova started making waves in Russian wrestling on the age group levels, winning the 1999 Cadet World title, and claiming silver medals at the 2000 and 2001 Junior World Championships. Her first major Senior level event was at the 2001 World Cup, where she placed fifth. Nazarova was in a loaded weight class within Russia's women's program, and has not yet qualified for a Russian World Team, but has been to three World Cups and two European Championships.

Smith's 2006 year was very frustrating, after suffering an injury on a tour to Russia and missing most of the season. In 2007, Smith returned to form, but was still not able to reclaim her No. 1 position within the nation, as superstar Kristie Marano has moved up to the weight class. Marano has now earned nine World medals in her career, and should be Smith's top challenger again this season.

Russia brought two talented heavyweight women to the 2007 Sunkist Kids International, Nazarova and 2004 Olympic silver medalist Guzel Manyrova. Smith had to wrestle them both that day.

Smith defeated Jenna Pavlik of the NYAC, 2-0, 1-0 in her first match in Sunkist. Pavlik was Smith's replacement on the 2001 U.S. World Team. In the semifinals, Smith defeated Manyrova, 3-0, 1-2, 1-1, to make the finals.

Nazarova pinned Monique Cabrera of Menlo 7-0, 0:26 to open her tournament, then defeated Amy Havens of Missouri Valley by technical fall, 6-0, 8-0. In the semifinals, Nazarova scored another pin, beating past University World champion Stephany Lee of the Sunkist Kids 3-1, 0:27.

The finals showdown between Smith and Nazarova was a close battle, with Smith winning by a 2-0, 2-1 score. Now both athletes need to focus on the difficult task of earning their nation's spot on the 2008 Olympic Team.

This popular feature will be changed on a regular basis, allowing members to enjoy many of the greatest matches in wrestling history. Posted in the archive section of the Members Only web page was the Joe Betterman vs. Jim Gruenwald gold-medal finals in men's Greco-Roman at 60 kg/132 lbs. at the Sunkist Kids International Open in Chandler, Ariz. Many other entertaining and historic matches are in the archive section for the Bout of the Week.

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