CEDAR FALLS — Bill Smith, the only Olympic Gold Medalist in Northern Iowa history, passed away Tuesday at the age of 89 in Humboldt.
“We are sadden to hear of the passing of Bill Smith, who will always be remembered as one of the sport’s greatest wrestlers and coaches,” said National Wrestling Hall of Fame Executive Director Lee Roy Smith.
Smith won back-to-back NCAA Division I championships for Iowa State Teachers College, now UNI, in 1949 and 1950, with his second title helping the Panthers win the national title.
Smith won the 1952 gold medal in Helsinki, Finland at 160.5 pounds. Smith also qualified for the 1956 Olympics, but was not allowed to compete because he had taken money to be a head coach at a high school which was not allowed at the time.
The Council Bluffs native recently donated his medal to Northern Iowa where it is displayed inside the West Gym. Smith was part of the inaugural class inducted into UNI’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 1985 and is a member of the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame (1972), Iowa High School Wrestling Hall of Fame (1977) and National Wrestling Hall of Fame (2002).
The competition wrestling mat UNI uses inside the West Gym carries Smith’s name on it.
“I couldn’t be more grateful that we are going to have that, and I am going to be able to see that display every day,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said after Smith donated the medal. “It’s a great lesson for me and our guys that we are going to keep working and believing in it.
“We can’t honor him enough and what he did in the sport.”