STILLWATER, Okla.--In honor of Black History Month in February, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum has created a new exhibit that will commemorate 50 years of African American success on the mat.

?On behalf of the Hall of Fame Board of Governors, I want to express our collective excitement for this educational outreach project that celebrates the heritage of African Americans who have contributed so much to the success of our sport both at home and abroad,? said Lee Roy Smith, Executive Director of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. ?We believe this exhibit will help inspire young African Americans to follow in the footsteps of these extraordinary individuals who have been successful in both sport and life.?

It was half a century ago, in 1957, that Simon Roberts from the University of Iowa claimed the first NCAA Wrestling Championship by a black athlete at 147 pounds. Since then, 45 other African American wrestlers have joined him at the top of the podium. Blacks have also won national, world and Olympic wrestling medals and become successful coaches and officials.

Wrestling ranks among the most successful individual sports in medals won by black athletes at the NCAA and Olympic levels of competition. ?The Wrestling Hall of Fame has been collaborating with the organization that initiated black history month (Association for the Study of African American Life and History) to bring attention to the tremendous historical impact that blacks have had upon the sport,? Smith said.

The exhibit, which will be on display at the museum in Stillwater for the remainder of 2008, will feature individual biographies and photos of each wrestler along with a narrative chronicling the African American wrestling experience. A traveling exhibit will be featured at the NCAA Division I Championships in St. Louis this March and the Olympic Trials in June in Las Vegas. The Hall of Fame's annual on-line trivia challenge prior to the NCAA Championships will also focus on the legacy of African American wrestling champions in the United States.

A Press Kit of materials for the exhibit is attached to this e-mail. If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact Lee Roy Smith at the National Wrestling Hall of Fame at 405-377-5243 or lsmith@wrestlinghalloffame.org. You can also visit our website: www.wrestlinghalloffame.org.