Being on the mats as a Saber has taught Central DeWitt senior Nick Smith more than just how to pin his opponent.
Although, he’s pretty good at that part, too.
Smith went 26-3 this season, making a trip to state where he brought home a 4th place medal. That’s all after coming in with an elbow injury that kept him off the mats until the first of the year.
When he did return, Smith won five tournaments, became Central DeWitt’s first conference champion since 2008, and then claimed his state berth.
“Without the elbow injury there is a really good chance Nick would have finished as the program’s winningest wrestler,” Central DeWitt Coach Matt Ohnemus said. Smith ended his career with 119 wins, good for 5th best in program history.
“I think it’s because I set high goals from the start,” Smith said. “If I set high goals I know I’ll work harder in the room, out of the room. I think setting high goals is a main point when you’re competing in anything.”
At state, Smith ended up losing in the semifinals, but was still wrestling for third place. In that final match, Smith was thrown and landed on his head. It was enough to send him to the hospital and keep him unconscious for two hours.
“It was pretty scary,” Smith said.
Still, he’s very happy with the success he saw this year and even happier with what the program has done for him personally.
“Freshman year I was kind of a troubled student, got into a lot of trouble,” Smith said. “I got into wrestling because it was something I could maintain. It helped me with my self-control.
“My coaches told me it would change me as a person. From then to now, it definitely helped me become a different person and everyone sees it. That makes me happy.”
Smith said that the rigorous control required in wrestling and work ethic he’s learned from the sport has put him on a better path than he was on.
“It’s definitely discipline and hard work,” Smith said. “If you get mad on the mat, you can’t fight back or actually punch someone. Stuff like that helped me turn from fighting to actually controlling myself.
“Knowing how hard practices and meets were, it’s going to help me when I leave and go onto college, then find a job and move on. Looking at wrestling, it makes everything in life seem a little easier.”
He’s not the only one who’s seen the changes
“Nick has grown as a young man that can be proud of who he his both on and off the mat,” Coach Ohnemus said. “It will be extremely hard to say goodbye to someone of Nick’s caliber, but he has left an incredible mark on the Saber wrestling program and has elevated expectations for every future Saber that comes after him.”
Smith definitely put in the work to see the success, but knows he had help.
“The coaches the last four years really got me where I am today,” Smith said.
Smith wants to continue either football, wrestling or both sports. He’s not sure where at this moment, and is ready for his senior track and field season.