National Wrestling Hall of Fame

Distinguished Member, Gold Medalist Bill Smith Passes Away

Olympic gold medalist Bill Smith, who was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame as a Distinguished Member in 1978, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89 in Humboldt, Iowa.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Bill Smith, who will always be remembered as one of the sport’s greatest wrestlers and coaches,” said Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith. “His legendary career as a student athlete, as an Olympian, and as a coach leaves a legacy of inspiration. On behalf of the Hall of Fame, we extend our deepest sympathies and our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, former wrestlers and students.”

Smith, Bill_ (1)Smith won back-to-back NCAA Division I championships for Iowa State Teachers College, now the University of Northern Iowa, at 165 pounds in 1949 and 1950, compiling a 52-0-1 career record. He led Iowa Teachers to the team title in 1950 following a runner-up finish in 1949. He was also a three-time National AAU Freestyle champion at 165 pounds from 1949-51, and helped Northern Iowa capture the team trophy all three years.

He won the gold medal at 160.5 pounds at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Four years later he won the Olympic trials at 174 pounds, but later was declared ineligible for the Games because he already had launched a coaching career that was to span three levels of competition.

Smith, Bill_coach, Pacific High School 1973Smith coached four seasons in Rock Island, Illinois, producing a state high school team championship and a 57-5 record. Following four years with a winning record at the University of Nebraska, he moved to California where he coached the Olympic Club of San Francisco for nearly a decade. Smith led the powerhouse of open competition to three national team titles in freestyle and four national team titles in Greco-Roman wrestling.

After serving as Canadian Olympic coach in 1968, Smith returned to the high school ranks in California. In 1976, his Clayton Valley team from Concord won the California high school championship, marking Smith as one of the few coaches to lead prep winners in more than one state.