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|Smith named 2005 USA Wrestling Women’s Wrestler of the Year|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Iris Smith (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army) has been named the 2005 Women's Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the first time that Smith has won this prestigious award.
Smith captured a gold medal at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. in freestyle wrestling at the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on Sept. 30. It was the only gold medal for the United States at the competition, which included all three Olympic styles of the sport (men's freestyle, women's freestyle, men's Greco-Roman). Smith was one of four U.S. women to win a medal, and helped lead the United States to a third-place finish in the women's team standings.
Smith won four bouts to capture the title. She opened with an impressive 3-1, 1-0 victory over Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria. In the quarterfinals, Smith beat Agnieszka Wieszczek of Poland, 2-0, 6-0. Her semifinals win was over Anita Schaetzle of Germany, 3-1, 2-0.
Smith pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the year, beating five-time World Champion Kyoko Hamaguchi of Japan, 3-1, 1-1, 1-0 in the finals. Smith gained the match-winning point 50 seconds into the third period when both wrestlers scrambled out-of-bounds. She became only the fourth U.S. women's wrestler to ever win a World title. Smith was seventh in the 2000 World Championships, her only previous World appearance for the United States.
She qualified for the U.S. World Team by winning the World Team Trials in Ames, Iowa in June, defeating Ali Bernard (New Ulm, Minn./Univ of Regina) in the Championship Series. It was her third career World Team Trials victory. Smith also won her fourth career U.S. Nationals title with a victory in Las Vegas, Nev. in May, pinning Bernard in the gold medal finals in the second period.
At the 2005 World Cup in Clermont Ferrand, France in May, Smith claimed a bronze medal. Her only loss in the tournament was to five-time World champion Hamaguchi in the dual meet against Japan. She won her match against opponents from Russia and Venezuela.
Smith was named USOC Female Wrestler of the Year for 2005. She also received an award from the SportsWomen of Colorado for her outstanding year.
Smith is a Sargeant in the U.S. Army, and is a member of the Army's World Class Athlete Program. She is also a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. Smith is originally from Albany, Ga., where she started her wrestling career at Darsey Private School.
USA Wrestling will be announcing major award winners each day this week on TheMat.com.
PAST WOMEN'S WRESTLER OF THE YEAR AWARD WINNERS
2005 - Iris Smith, Colorado Springs, Colo. U.S. Army
2004 - Sara McMann, Lock Haven, Pa., Sunkist Kids
2003 - Patricia Miranda, Colorado Springs, Colo., Dave Schultz WC
2002 - Kristie Marano, Albany, N.Y., ATWA
2001 - Toccara Montgomery, Cleveland, Ohio, Sunkist Kids
2000 - Kristie Marano, Albany, N.Y., ATWA
1999 - Tricia Saunders, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1998 - Kristie Stenglein, Albany, N.Y., ATWA
1997 - Sandra Bacher, San Jose, Calif., Dave Schultz WC
1996 - Tricia Saunders, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1995 - Vickie Zummo, Hamburg, N.J., New York AC
1994 - Shannon Williams, Ontario, Calif., Sunkist Kids
1993 - Tricia Saunders, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids