By CARLON SCOTT
BYU wrestling coach Mark Schultz has submitted Joseph Smith’s name to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Schultz chose to submit Smith for induction to the organization in the category of “Outstanding American.” The idea of submitting the former LDS prophet for Hall of Fame consideration came in a sort of round-about manner. Schultz did not start out with the cause of submitting Smith’s name to the Hall.
After finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of Oklahoma, Schultz decided to come to BYU and pursue a Masters Degree. During his masters work Schultz had a paper assignment given to him.
“I had to do a paper, it could be on anything I wanted, and I picked Joseph Smith,” Schultz said. “Alan Albright, the coach at BYU before me, told me Joseph Smith was a wrestler, and I didn’t believe him, and I wanted to prove him wrong.”
As Schultz went to research the paper, he found out Albright was right.
“I went out and gathered up all these wrestling experiences involving Joseph Smith, and after a while I had quite a lot of them,” he said.
While working on the paper, Schultz decided to submit Smith to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“I thought ‘this guy deserves to be in the Hall of Fame,’ when you compare him with other inductees of the hall of fame,” Schultz said. “Like Kirk Douglas, for example. He is an outstanding American in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
“If you look at Joseph Smith’s influence on Americans, well he was one of the most influential individuals in (American) history. I mean, compared to an actor as far as his influence on the nation, (Smith) was a lot more influential.”
Douglas was a national champion on the collegiate Division III level before he became an actor.
Schultz took his paper and other important information and sent it off to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame earlier this year.
The criteria for induction to the Hall of Fame in the category of “Outstanding American” includes two basic elements. The candidate needs to be recognized for his wrestling skills and must also be outstanding in another aspect of contributing to the country’s heritage.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame is located in Stillwater, Okla. Some famous members of the Hall include Abraham Lincoln, General Norman Schwartzkopf and George Washington.
Schultz’s research turned up some interesting stories of Smith’s experiences with wrestling. Schultz found one story in the book “Joseph Smith. The Prophet, The Man,” that provides a good idea of Smith’s skill and strength in the sport of wrestling.
According to the text, while in jail at Gallatin, Mo., in April 1839, one of the guards at the jail who had a reputation of being a champion wrestler in the county challenged Smith.
At first Smith felt too weak after being in jail so long to engage in such a physical contest. But after the guard persisted with his requests on other occasions, Smith finally agreed to the match.
The other prison guards at the jail formed a circle around the two wrestlers. The guard made several unsuccessful attempts to throw Smith outside of the ring.
Smith then went on the attack and on his first try, picked the guard up and threw him on his back into a pool of water.
Schultz was so impressed by what he found in his research, he decided to create a re-enacted photo of this particular incident.
The picture was taken at the LDS Motion Picture Studio in Provo. Schultz used the picture for the BYU Wrestling Team’s promotional and schedule poster for the 1997-98 season.
Smith was not accepted into the Hall of Fame in his first year, but still has an additional two years left for consideration. The Hall allows for an individual’s name to stay in consideration for three years. After that, the name can be re-submitted.
Schultz says he hopes Smith will be accepted in the three year period, but may still re-submit the former prophet’s name if he is not.