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USA Wrestling celebrates Black History month by recognizing success of African Americans in international wrestling

By Gary Abbott | Feb. 29, 2008, 5:29 p.m. (ET)

USA Wrestling is proud to join in the recognition of Black History month as part of a celebration within the wrestling community recognizing 50th years of African American success in wrestling.

In cooperation with the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum, USA Wrestling has helped publicize this aspect of wrestling history.

February marked the 50th year since Simon Roberts of the Univ. of Iowa became the first NCAA Wrestling champion of African-American heritage in 1957. All month, the wrestling community has noted special achievements by Black athletes, coaches and leaders in the sport.

As the national governing body for wrestling, USA Wrestling has been an integral part of that history. Black athletes have won numerous World and Olympic medals for the United States in all three international wrestling styles.

"The United States has enjoyed a rich history of success at the very highest level by outstanding African-American wrestlers. Athletes like Bobby Douglas, Lee Kemp, Lloyd Keaser, Kenny Monday, Kevin Jackson, Iris Smith and so many others are part of this legacy. These athletes have represented not only their sport, but also their country, with honor and distinction. We are proud of wrestling's heritage and the diversity the sport enjoys," said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.

Some of the key "firsts" of African American achievement within international wrestling include:
1962 - Rudy Williams and Hallow Wilson wrestle for the USA at the World Championships
1964 - Bobby Douglas, Charles Tribble and Robert Pickesn wrestle for the USA in the Olympic Games
1966 - Bobby Douglas wins a World Championships medal (silver)
1973 - Lloyd Keaser wins a World Championships gold medal
1988 - Kenny Monday wins an Olympic gold medal in freestyle wrestling
1992 - Bobby Douglas named U.S. Olympic Freestyle Head Coach
2004 - Toccara Montgomery competes in the Olympics in women's wrestling
2005 - Iris Smith wins a World Championships gold medal in women's wrestling

On 42 occasions, African Americans have competed for the United States at the Olympic Games.

Joining Monday as an Olympic gold medalist was Kevin Jackson, a 1992 Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling.

Olympic silver medalists have included Lloyd Keaser (1976), Greg Gibson (1984), Kenny Monday (1992), Townsend Saunders (1996) and Jamill Kelly (2004). Olympic bronze medalists have been Nate Carr (1988), Chris Campbell (1992) and Rodney Smith (1996).

World Championship gold medalists have included Lloyd Keaser and Iris Smith, plus Lee Kemp (1978, 1979, 1982), Chris Campbell (1981), Kenny Monday (1989), Kevin Jackson (1991, 1995), Melvin Douglas (1993) and Dremiel Byers (2002).

Another milestone will be reached this summer, as all three of the U.S. Olympic Team Coaches in freestyle wrestling are African Americans. Leading the U.S. team in Beijing will be Kevin Jackson, Lee Kemp and Kerry McCoy.

"I think it shows how far our country has come, not only socially but also from a wrestling standpoint," said Jackson, who also serves as USA Wrestling's National Freestyle Coach. "That a selection committee made that choice showed that they have no bias. They chose the staff they felt would best help our team to win. We are excited for Kerry, Lee and myself. It makes me proud as a Black man to be part of this staff."

USA Wrestling is proud of the heritage of African American wrestlers at all levels.

For more information on Black History Month and wrestling success, visit:
http://www.themat.com/index.php?page=showarticle&ArticleID=17876