Prep wrestling: GW's Smith moves closer to second title
HUNTINGTON - Three more victories.
That is all George Washington senior Jake Smith needs to further cement himself into Patriots wrestling history following his convincing first-round victory at the 66th annual State Tournament on Thursday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.
Smith, who pinned Preston senior Brandon Poling 1:36 into the match, expects the competition to improve as he continues his quest today. Smith meets Musselman junior Danny Arndt in the second round of the 160-pound bracket in Class AAA. Arndt earned a 4-3 decision over Cabell Midland junior Justin Leggett.
Smith looks to join Dave Bock as George Washington's only two-time state champions. Bock captured his titles at 145 pounds in 1966 and 138 pounds in 1965, when the event was just one division.
"The competition isn't as strong the first day, but it improves as the tournament progresses," Smith said. "But that should pick up (today), especially (tonight)."
A state champion at 145 pounds last season, Smith enters the quarterfinals with a 38-0 record and a career record of 169-21. He was a runner-up at 135 pounds in 2011 and a third-place finisher at 112 pounds in 2010.
"He has some good competition coming up," George Washington Coach Richard Harper said. "He's going to have to come out and give it all he's got and I think he'll be fine. He's not going to take (the championship) sitting down."
If Smith were to win a second crown, he would become just the 12th wrestler from the Kanawha Valley to have won at least two titles. But the Patriots standout is not sure if that is enough to cement himself as one of the area's best.
"It would be a huge accomplishment," said Smith, who will continue his wrestling career at Division I Cleveland State. "That's been the goal since the start of the season, actually since the end of last year to get another (title). Hopefully I can achieve that.
"Hopefully I'm good enough to leave a legacy. I don't know if I'm that good."
Whether or not he accomplishes his goal, there's no doubt Smith has made an impact on the program, Harper said.
"Jake's a leader on this team," said Harper, who is in his ninth season guiding the Patriots. "Everybody looks up to him. He's a state champion. They know he's put the time in and has worked hard.
"All these young kids and teammates want to accomplish the same thing. They see what hard work does for you. Our kids see with Jake that, if you work hard, this can happen and they see the outcome of hard work. It makes them work harder."
Three other Patriots earned first-round victories to join Smith in the championship bracket, while one dropped to the consolation bracket.
Freshman Sam Moore earned an 8-3 decision against Point Pleasant junior Caleb Leslie at 106 pounds, while junior Jensen Lorea claimed a 9-1 decision over Cabell Midland freshman Adam Whitmore at 126 pounds. At 285 pounds, junior Jack Skidmore secured a 7-0 decision over Hedgesville junior Anthony Carter. All advanced to the quarterfinals.
Dropping down to the consolation bracket at 120 pounds was sophomore David Pancake, who was pinned 3:46 into the match by Brooke senior Matthew Beaman.
"Having Jake in the practice room with these younger kids, he gets to work out with them and it helps," said Harper, who has known Smith since he was 5 years old. "That's why you look at the teams that are great, they've got guys in the wrestling room that can push each other and that's what we're starting to get here at GW.
"We got a few kids that are rubbing off on our younger kids, pushing them and beating on them a little it and it makes them better because anytime you wrestle tough competition, it's going to make you better."
Contact sportswriter Jay Fankhauser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4871.