Williams Named Freestyle Wrestler of the Year

May 6, 2003

Joe Williams, an assistant wrestling coach for the University of Iowa, has been named the winner of the 2002 John Smith Award as the Freestyle Wrestler of the Year by USA Wrestling. It is the second year in a row that Williams has won this prestigious award.

Williams swept the two major domestic events of the year, claiming gold medals at 74 kg/163 pounds at the U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas, Nev. and the Senior World Team Trials in St. Paul, Minn. Williams was named Outstanding Wrestler at the U.S. Nationals, defeating Casey Cunningham of the Sunkist Kids in the championship finals. He also defeated Cunningham in the World Team Trials finals.

Along with his six other teammates on the 2002 U.S. Freestyle World Team, Williams was unable to participate in the World Freestyle Championships in Tehran, Iran. Shortly before the U.S. team was to leave for the competition, USA Wrestling received information from the U.S. government about a threat of violence to the U.S. team if it was to compete in Iran. USA Wrestling did not send the team to compete due to this threat of violence.

Williams had a successful year in other major international events in 2002. He won a gold medal at the World Cup of Freestyle Wrestling, held in Spokane, Wash. It was the third straight year that Williams claimed a gold medal at the World Cup. Among those Williams defeated in the World Cup were 1994 World champion Alexander Leipold of Germany, as well as talented Russian competitor Irbek Farniev.

Williams won a gold medal at the 2002 Kiev Grand Prix tournament in Ukraine, and claimed a bronze medal at the 2002 Yasar Dogu tournament in Turkey. Williams also participated in the 2002 Kurt Angle Classic, an all-star event where he went up in weight and defeated 1996 Olympic champion Khajimurad Magomedov of Russia in the bout.

Williams was one of the top wrestlers in Iowa Hawkeye history, claiming three NCAA Div. I titles during his impressive career. Williams was the outstanding wrestler at the 1998 NCAA Championships. He is originally from Chicago, Ill., where he was a star for nationally respected Mount Carmel High School. Williams was the 1993 ASICS Tiger High School Wrestler of the Year.

USA Wrestling will be announcing major award winners each day this week on TheMat.com.


2002 – Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2001 – Joe Williams, Iowa City, Iowa, Sunkist Kids
2000 – Brandon Slay, Amarillo, Texas, Dave Schultz WC
1999 – Stephen Neal, Bakerfield, Calif., Dave Schultz WC
1998 – Sammie Henson, Norman, Okla., Sunkist Kids
1997 – Les Gutches, Corvallis, Ore., Sunkist Kids
1996 – Kendall Cross, Raleigh, N.C., Sunkist Kids
1995 – Kevin Jackson, Phoenix, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1994 – Melvin Douglas, Mesa, Ariz., Sunkist Kids
1993 – Terry and Tom Brands, Iowa City, Iowa, Team Foxcatcher
1992 – John Smith, Stillwater, Okla., Sunkist Kids