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|Dremiel Byers becomes three-time Dave Schultz champion, with teammate and friend Iris Smith taking third|
By Michelle Thilges USA Wrestling
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Iris Smith said her best friend is her teammate Dremiel Byers. The two met when Smith was 16 years old and the friendship grew from there.
"He is like my big brother," said Smith. "We each have been through a lot, but we are always there for each other."
Byers echoed the same thoughts about Iris.
"I've never had a little sister, but now I do," he said.
Both athletes are members of the U.S. Army team and took home medals from the 2007 Dave Schultz Memorial International on Saturday night. Byers won the Greco-Roman 120 kg/264.5 lbs. weight class to become a three-time Schultz champion. He has previously won the tournament in 2002 and 2005. Smith was the third place Women's freestyle winner at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.
Both wrestlers were proud of each other's efforts.
"The champion spirit in her came out," said Byers. "After she lost her first match, we talked about it. We are quick to analyze and critique our mistakes and improve."
Smith said she was excited about Byers' win against Russ Davie.
"I'm pumped for him," said Smith. "We just wanted to bring it home for the Army."
In his first match, Byers, the 2002 World champion, pinned Deli Liu of China with 41 seconds left in the first period. His second match came down to a reply calling by the judges. After reviewing the call of whether Byers used his legs to bring down Ivan Stoyanov Ivanov of Bulgaria, three points were awarded in Byers' favor and he won the match 4-0.
"They were looking to see if my leg was there and planted or if he (Ivanov) tangled himself around me," said Byers. "It worked out in my favor."
Byers made it to the final match when he defeated Yasuda Iori of Japan 7-0, 6-0. Byers had two five-point takedowns in the match. Byers took the first period in the final by defeating Davie, of New York AC, by a technical fall 6-0. Byers also took the second period 1-1, by taking the last point.
"I didn't try to do too much," he said. "I had it fresh in my mind that I lost to this guy last year. We have a different focus and strategy in the Army. We look to take points away and do what we are good at."
Smith said her victory over Schaetzle was one she was hungry for.
"I was ready to come out and show everyone what I can do," she said. "I will see the Russian that I lost to in a couple weeks and I plan on taking her down then."
Smith's day started off with a win against Pam Wilson of Canada, 5-0, 3-0. She lost her second match against Elena Perpelkina, of Russia, in overtime 1-0, 0-1, 0-1. Perpelkina is the 2006 European Champion and placed third in the 2006 World Championships.
"There weren't many points scored," said Smith, the 2005 World champion. "She won the leg clinch and got the point. I am disappointed that I lost, but I am not ashamed of it. She didn't kick my butt."
Smith continued to wrestle hard and defeated Lacey Novinska of Missouri Valley College, 3-0, 3-0. Smith shinned when she defeated Rosangela Conceicao, of Brazil, 1-0, 6-0.
Smith continued on to the third place medal match by defeating 2006 World Champion Stanka Zlateva Hristova, of Bulgaria, 5-0. 1-6, 4-0.
Smith won the third place medal match by defeating Anita Schaetzle of Germany 4-0, 1-0.
Both Byers and Smith compete in the heavyweight weight classes. Byers wrestles at 120 kg/264.5 lbs. and Smith at 72 kg/158.5 lbs.
Smith said competing against women from other countries is always a challenge.
"Several of these girls I have seen in previous competitions, but everybody else, like the Russians and the one from Brazil I haven't wrestled. It is definitely an important tournament to see their styles," she said.
Smith is returning to the mat after a knee injury followed by a foot injury. She is working at Fort Carson and the U.S. Olympic Training Center to make her comeback.
"Terry and Shon have been pushing me to work harder and I'm feeling good about getting back to the mat," said Iris.
Byers said the Schultz championships help him prepare for other tournaments.
"I have to get my weight down and it helps get the cob webs out," said Byers. "It helps me work on the things I need to; keep active on my feet and takedown points."
Byers is adjusting to the new style of wrestling that has come to his weight class in the past couple of years.
"They are taller than they used to be. I am standing straight and they are squatting," he said. "They lead with the same foot as I do and are more technical. I didn't see that two, three years ago."
Shon Lewis' goals for the team include looking at the "big picture" of going to the World Championships, Pan American Championships and the Olympics and bringing home the golds.
"I'm not taking away what our athletes have done here. They have done a good job, but you can't be a World Champion in February," said Lewis, the Army coach.
Both wrestlers agree being on the Army team is just like a family. Byers and Smith said being around each other has made it easier to train and prepare for competitions.
"When I'm hurting and need to cut weight, she says 'Let's cut weight,'" said Byers. "I'll do anything before I let her down. That isn't just with Iris; that is the whole Army team across the board. We are a family. We practice together and see each other all the time. It helps build the mentality of the team."
Lewis credited Byers and Smith as the anchors of the team. They are the only two that have won the World Championships in Greco-Roman and women's freestyle for the Army.
"They are in a totally different world, being heavyweights," Lewis said. "They help push each other. It is good to have that type of bond. I have to credit it to the black and gold too. That is what they Army is about. We stick together."