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|Wrestling Hall of Fame announces Distinguished Members|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
* National Wrestling Hall of Fame announces the Class of 2006 Distinguished Members;
* Brands, Henson, Saunders, Smith to be inducted in the 30th anniversary class:
* The first woman will be inducted, along with three brothers of Distinguished Members
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum has announced the selection of the Class of 2006 Distinguished Members to be inducted at its annual Honors Weekend Banquet and Induction Ceremony June 3, 2006 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The event will mark the 30th anniversary Class of the Hall of Fame & Museum.
Four wrestling greats will be added as Distinguished Members in 2006. They are:
* Terry Brands of Colorado Springs, Colo.
* Josiah Henson of Tulsa, Okla.
* Tricia Saunders of Phoenix, Ariz.
* Pat Smith of Stillwater, Okla.
This historic group of inductees includes the first woman chosen as a Distinguished Member. In addition, all three of the other inductees are brothers of wrestling greats who have already been inducted as Distinguished Members.
Included is the first four-time NCAA Div. I champion in wrestling history (Smith), a four-time World champion and wrestling pioneer (Saunders), a two-time World champion and Olympic medalist (Brands) and an Olympic medalist and Olympic referee (Henson).
The Hall of Fame's Board of Governors approved these selections at its semi-annual meeting held in Las Vegas on December 1, 2005.
"I want to thank our Board of Governors and the various screening and selection committees involved in the six-month process that determines our honorees for induction. This is another exceptional class of inductees whose merits transcend our sport," said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum.
Brands will join twin brother Tom Brands as a Distinguished Member. He was a World champion in freestyle wrestling in 1993 and 1995, and captured an Olympic bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Brands won World Cup and Pan American Games titles. He was a three-time finalist and two-time NCAA champion for the Univ. of Iowa. Brands currently works as USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Resident Coach.
Henson's older brother Stanley Henson is a Distinguished Member. Henson won a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. He went on to be a respected international wrestling official, becoming the first American to officiate at the Olympics in the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia. Henson was a long-time leader in U.S. wrestling and the Olympic movement. He was an undefeated wrestler and two-time EIWA champion for the U.S. Naval Academy.
Saunders becomes the first woman inducted as a Distinguished Member. She won four World gold medals and a World silver medal in women's freestyle wrestling, and completed her freestyle wrestling career without ever having lost to an American opponent. Saunders was the first U.S. wrestler to win a World gold medal in women's wrestling. She also served as the coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic team in women's wrestling, the first time that the sport was in the Olympic Games. Saunders is considered a pioneer in the development of women's wrestling.
Smith will join his older brother, John Smith, as a Distinguished Member. He became the first wrestler in history to win four NCAA Div. I national titles, competing for Oklahoma State Univ. He won his historic fourth NCAA title at the 1994 NCAA Championships held in Chapel Hill, N.C. Smith was a member of two Oklahoma State teams that won NCAA team titles. Along with brothers Lee Roy and John, the Smiths became the first set of three brothers to claim NCAA titles. He won four conference titles, and holds the Oklahoma State record for consecutive matches without a loss. Smith placed second in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials behind three-time Olympian Kenny Monday. He serves on the coaching staff at Oklahoma State, which has won three straight NCAA team titles.
Complete biographies of the inductees will be posted each day this week on TheMat.com (www.themat.com), with Brands on Tuesday, Henson on Wednesday, Saunders on Thursday and Smith on Friday.
Additional honorees will be selected and announced in January in the categories of Outstanding American, Order of Merit, Medal of Courage, and Outstanding Official.