John Smith is a name synonymous with wrestling success.
The Oklahoma State head coach won six consecutive world championships as a competitor from 1987-92, including gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul and at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and he owns five national championships as head coach of the Cowboys.
Smith accepted the head coaching position at Oklahoma State in 1992 and the numbers and accomplishments since that time speak for themselves. He has led his alma mater to five NCAA team titles in 1995, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006, has coached 22 NCAA individual champions and three Olympians, including 2004 silver medalist Jamill Kelly. Under his watch, the Cowboys have brought 10 team conference championships and 61 individual conference titles back to Stillwater. He has seen 80 of his student-athletes earn All-America recognition, an average of 5.0 All-America honorees per year.
The Del City, Okla., native enters the 2007-08 season with a 250-32-3 career dual match record as a head coach (.882 winning pct.)
Smith led OSU to four consecutive NCAA team championships from 2003 through 2006.
The 2003 squad compiled a perfect 17-0 dual meet record, won the Big 12 team title, crowned six individual Big 12 champions and featured a pair of NCAA individual champions in Johnny Thompson and Jake Rosholt.
The 2004 squad sported a 17-2 dual meet record, won the Big 12 team title, crowned four individual Big 12 champions and was led by NCAA individual champion Chris Pendleton.
Under Smith’s watch, Oklahoma State compiled a 21-0 dual meet record in 2005 and capped the season with one of the most dominant showings in the history of the NCAA Championships when an NCAA-record five separate Cowboys were crowned as NCAA champions. Zack Esposito won at 149 with Johny Hendricks taking the 165 championship, Pendleton repeating as an NCAA champion at 174, Jake Rosholt claiming the title at 197 and Steve Mocco taking the heavyweight championship. OSU wrestlers compiled a 38-9 record at the NCAA Championships that year and the Cowboys set school records for points, margin of victory and national champions. Oklahoma State scored 153 team points to top second-place Michigan by 70 points.
Smith and the Cowboys were 16-2 in dual meets en route to claiming their fourth consecutive NCAA team title in 2006, led by Hendricks and Rosholt, who both claimed their second consecutive NCAA individual championships.
The first of Smith’s five NCAA team championships was won in 1994, when the Cowboys compiled a 13-1 dual meet record, won the Big 12 team championship, crowned four individual Big 12 champions and three NCAA individual champions in Alan Fried, Mark Branch and Smith’s younger brother, Pat Smith.
For all of the championships and success he continues to enjoy as a coach, it is his career as a wrestler that is the stuff of legend. Smith truly was the best wrestler in the world.
In brief, Smith compiled a 105-5 record as a high school wrestler at Del City HS in Del City, Okla., before moving on to Oklahoma State, where he put together a 154-7-2 collegiate record that included a pair of NCAA individual championships in 1987 and 1988. He was a three-time All-America selection at OSU in 1985, 1987 and 1988. On the international stage, Smith rolled to a 100-5 career record that included six world championships (1987, 88, 89, 90, 91 and 92), two Olympic gold medals (1988 and 92), two Pan American Games gold medals (1987 and 91) and two Goodwill Games gold medals (1986 and 90).
To this day, Smith holds Oklahoma State school records for career victories (154), single-season victories (47 in 1988), career falls (38) and single-season falls (19 in 1988). A three-time Big 8 Conference individual champion in 1985, 1987 and 1988, Smith wrestled primarily at 134 during his collegiate career, where he strung together a 69-3 overall record. He also competed at 126, compiling a 19-2 overall mark. He won his one career match at 142.
After Smith’s junior year at Oklahoma State, he won the first of his six world championships in Clermont-Ferrand France. Smith remains the only collegiate wrestler to win a world championship while he was still in school. Following his graduation in 1988, Smith qualified for the U.S. Olympic freestyle team and came away from the Seoul Olympics with the first of his two Olympic gold medals and the second of his six consecutive world titles.
Three more world championships ensued in 1989, 1990 and 91 before Smith claimed the second of his Olympic gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona games to cement his legacy as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
His list of awards and honors received certainly befits someone who earned the distinction of being the best wrestler on the planet. Smith was honored as the first wrestler ever to be voted as the James E. Sullivan Award winner as America’s outstanding amateur athlete when he won the award in 1990. He was the first American ever to be chosen Master of Technique and Wrestler of the Year by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) when he received the honor in 1990. In 1992, he was presented with the Amateur Athletic Foundation’s World Trophy.
A 2003 inductee into the FILA International Wrestling Hall of Fame, a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and a 1997 inductee into the state of Oklahoma’s Hall of Fame, Smith was recognized as one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All Time at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Smith was the 1991 selection as FILA’s Outstanding Wrestler of the Year after earning Man of the Year honors from Amateur Wrestling News in 1988, Athlete of the Year recognition from USA Wrestling in 1989 and Sportsman of the Year honors from the U.S. Olympic Committee in 1990.
In 2004, Smith was presented with the Titan Award by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the next year, he joined his brother Pat as one of 15 wrestlers named to the NCAA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
The Smith family legacy is strong at Oklahoma State, as John’s older brother Lee Roy was a three-time All-American in 1977, 1979 and 1980 and claimed the 1980 national championship, John was a three-time All-American in 1985, 1987 and 1988 with a pair of national titles in 1987 and 1988 and younger brother Pat was a four-time All-American with four national championships 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994.
Smith has also successfully established a wrestling club that allows wrestlers from across the country to prepare and train for international competition. The Gator Wrestling Club sent three former Oklahoma State wrestlers to compete in the Olympic Games. Jamill Kelly won the silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, with Daniel Cormier finishing fourth and Eric Guerrero also representing the USA in Athens.
In 1995, Smith married the former Toni Donaldson. The couple has a 10-year-old son, Joseph; a eight-year-old daughter, Isabell; a six-year-old daughter, Cecilia and a three-year-old son named Samuel.