Of all the distinguished wrestlers that have worn the red, white, and blue for Team USA, you would be hard pressed to find one that was more dominant in international competition than John Smith. With six World Championships and multiple gold medals from the Olympics, Pan Am Games, and Goodwill Games to his name, Smith’s success against the best in the world was nothing short of legendary.

Born in Del City, Oklahoma, Smith’s wrestling talent was cultivated from an early age through hard-fought matches with his eight siblings, including brothers Leroy and Pat who would themselves go on to become NCAA champions. Upon wrapping up his prep career with a 105-5 record and four state championships, Smith chose to stay close to home and wrestle for Oklahoma State University.

The transition to college wrestling was initially very difficult for Smith. After failing to place in the NCAA tournament as a freshman and finishing as the runner-up as a sophomore, Smith took the unusual step of red-shirting his junior year. That decision turned out to be a difference maker, as Smith came back in 1987 to win both the Big Eight title and the NCAA championship. He repeated both feats as a senior to end his college career on a high note.

From there, Smith turned his focus to international events and earned the following championships and awards on the world stage:

  • Two Olympic gold medals (1988, 1992)
  • Six World Championships (1987-92)
  • Two Pan American Games gold medals (1987, 1991)
  • Two Goodwill Games gold medals (1986, 1990)
  • USA Wrestling Athlete of the Year (1989)
  • FILA Master of Technique Award, given to the best technical wrestler in the world (1990)
  • James E. Sullivan Award, given to the best amateur athlete in the country (1990)
  • U.S. Olympic Committee Sportsman of the Year (1990)
  • National Wrestling Hall of Fame inductee (1997)
  • FILA Hall of Fame inductee (2003)

Where is John Smith now?

After retiring from active competition in 1992, Smith immediately returned to his alma mater as head coach–a position he holds to this day. Under Smith’s guidance, the OSU Cowboys have won five NCAA team titles and produced 26 NCAA individual champions. Smith has been named conference Coach of the Year a total of 12 times, with the most recent honor coming for the 2013 season.