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Wrestling legends John Smith, Art Martori to be inducted into National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame

Oct. 22, 2008, 6:30 p.m. (ET)

Two-time Olympic wrestling champion John Smith and Sunkist Kids founder Art Martori will be the first members of the amateur wrestling community to be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, during the 31st annual Induction and Awards Gala held in Schaumburg, Ill. on November 1.

"The inductees represent the very best of their sport, and are chosen not only for their accomplishments, but for their character, integrity, sportsmanship and contributions to their respective sport and their community," said Dan Sergi, the dinner chairman for the event.

Smith won gold medals at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea and the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He also won four World gold medals for the United States (1987, 1989-91), winning six straight World and Olympic titles. Smith won the Sullivan Award and the USOC SportsMan of the Year award as the nation's top amateur athlete.

"I am half-Italian. It is always a proud side of my family," said Smith. "There are a lot of happy Italians in Oklahoma about this. The athletes inducted are all tied to Italian blood. It is a proud people. My family has a remarkable history, having to grind it out for many years to allow the next generation to have a better life. It wasn't easy for the Italian people when my family first came to America. They made a commitment to their family. My mother is as excited as anyone about this."

Smith was a two-time NCAA champion for Oklahoma State. He is currently the head coach at his alma mater, where he has coached five NCAA champion teams during his 18 years, and has become Oklahoma State's all-time winningest coach. He is a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"It was even more special having Art Martori inducted with me," said Smith. "He was very important in my career when I wrestled for the Sunkist Kids. He allowed me to focus on being the best wrestler in the world for six years. He was an important part of my success."

Martori, a former wrestler and successful businessman, founded the Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club three decades ago, and built it into one of the most successful sports clubs in the world within the Olympic family. Martori served a term as president of USA Wrestling, and has been a leader within the organization for many years. He has been inducted as a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

"It means being recognized for what you have accomplished," said Martori. "I grew up in an Italian family. It is a close-knit group of people, who are all about family. We are being honored by our peers. Many Italian-Americans have done great things. They have identified John Smith and I for this honor. There are so many Italian-American sports heroes. To be brought into that level of recognition, from a sport that we say is a fraternity, is rewarding. This is very good for wrestling. To be recognized on a more national basis is exciting for us all."

The Sunkist Kids have won every USA Wrestling national freestyle team title since 1983, and has had national champion teams in all three of the Olympic styles of wrestling: men's freestyle, Greco-Roman and women's freestyle. Athletes representing the Sunkist Kids have won every major honor within the sport, including World and Olympic gold medals and numerous international honors. John Smith was one of eight Olympic wrestling champions who won their gold medal as a member of the Sunkist Kids, along with Dave Schultz, Mark Schultz, Kenny Monday, Kendall Cross, Rulon Gardner, Cael Sanderson and Henry Cejudo.

"I may be getting this award, but this is all about our club," said Martori. "It is about the Sunkist Kids and all that our wrestlers have accomplished. It is also about people like Tim Gressley and Kim Martori-Wickey, as well as coaches like Bobby Douglas and Joe Seay, those who do the day-to-day things that goes on with the club."

Others to be inducted in the Class of 2008 are Kelly Amonte Hiller (lacrosse), Phil Mickelson (golf), John Franco (baseball), Mary Carillo (tennis and broadcaster), John Gagliardo (football), Edward J. DeBartolo, Jr. (football), Alfred "Lindy" Faragalli (bowling), Ed Giacomin (ice hockey), Frank "Frankie" Lentine (softball) and Lou Zamperini (track and field).

In addition, the 2008 Michael J. Roarty Sportsman of the Year award will be presented to Dominic M. Sergi, the President of Rex Electric, Inc. and Technologies. The 2008 Yogi Berry Athlete of the Year award will be presented to WBC and WBO middleweight boxing champion Kelly Pavlik.


Art Martori has been an exemplary leader and role model in the sport of wrestling for over 30 years. At Arizona State University, Martori made a name for himself in wrestling as a talented and ambitious competitor. After his competitive professional career Art put his wrestling skills and leadership to work and founded the Sunkist Kids wrestling club in 1976. Art's mission for the Sunkist Kids was to create a program that could assist elite athletes to develop into world-class champions. The Sunkist Kids have an impeccable record; they have won every USA Wrestling National Freestyle team title from 1983 to present day. Martori was selected as the president of USA Wrestling and during his short tenure as president the USA Wrestling team won its first world team title in freestyle wrestling. Martori's leadership and abilities to mold talented youth into world class athletes earned him the honor of being selected as a distinguished member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.


John Smith is truly a giant in the sport of wrestling, under the guidance of fellow inductee Art Martori and the Sunkist Kids, Smith achieved unimaginable success. Smith's impressive resume includes two time Olympic Freestyle Champion, two time World Cup Champion, two time Goodwill Games Champion, two time Pan American Champion, two time FILA Senior World Freestyle Champion, and four time USA Senior Freestyle Champion. His accomplishments on the mat have been recognized and celebrated around the world, he was the first American to be honored Master of Technique and Wrestler of the Year by the International Wrestling Federation (FILA), the first wrestler ever nominated for the World Trophy, which he received in 1992, and was recognized as one of the 100 Greatest Olympians of All Time at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Smith has not only proudly represented his country but also the ancient Sport of Wrestling itself. In 1997 Smith was inducted as a Distinguished Member into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, and in 2003 he was honored internationally by the FILA Hall of Fame. Smith now coaches Oklahoma State University Wrestling Team, who under Smith's leadership, have won five national titles.


Located in Chicago's historic "Little Italy" neighborhood, the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit educational institution dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and heritage of Italian Americans in sports. Our collection aims to honor and preserve Italian Americans who have made lasting contributions to sports and society. The NIASHF has awarded over $6 million in scholarships to students from all backgrounds for their academic and athletic endeavors through our Second Wind and A Level Playing Field outreach programs.

The National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame
1431 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Direct (312) 226-5566
Facsimile (312) 226-5678