VANDALIA — As the lone senior on the Xenia Buccaneers high school varsity wrestling team, Cody Smith has been used to setting the example for his teammates. But Saturday’s matches at Vandalia’s Butler High School were important for two other reasons.
He was about to win his 100th career varsity wrestling match.
And he was going to be able to do it in front of his three-month-old son, Carter.
So with little Carter comfortably nestled upon the lap of one of Cody’s family members, “dad” set about claiming win no. 100 in grand style. Smith needed almost the entire two minutes of the opening round, but with 15 seconds remaining he pinned Butler senior Trevor Kovacs for his 100th win.
Smith says being a father in high school has helped to motivate him. There were plenty of naysayers who were quick to write him off, because he now had a kid to deal with, but the senior Buc plans on proving them wrong.
“A lot of people told me that, having a kid, life’s pretty much over,” Smith said. “For me, I’m always about proving people wrong. So just coming 0ut here and doing this, to maybe give Carter some good shoes to fill, he’s definitely the main reason I’m working so hard at this.”
Smith credits his intense off-season workouts, including several summer tournaments against the region’s finest wrestlers, as a key to his success on the mat. Xenia coach Sean Schooley says he sees his senior grappler as a mix of wrestling styles. Smith is quick, but he can bowl an opponent over with his strength just the same.
“He’s really good about setting things up and working the angles. But once he finds something that’s going to work, he’ll hit it. And when he hits it, it’s going to happen,” Schooley said. “Cody spends a lot of time in the weight room back at the high school, and doing what he can to improve himself. We have a lot of younger kids on this team who are just starting to do that. Wrestling is a hard sport. It’s gotta be the focus all year ‘round.
“We’re trying to get the other kids to realize that we need to live and die in the weight room. That’s where most of your matches are won and lost.”
Schooley applauded Smith’s family support system for helping with taking care of Carter throughout the day, while Smith trains and wrestles. He said Smith’s family, and his girlfriend’s family, have all pitched in.
“Everybody at school is behind him, from students to teachers and administrators, his family is behind him and so are his coaches and teammates,” Schooley said. “With all that behind you, I think that drives him a little bit.”
Veteran Butler wrestling coach Mark Peck has seen Smith grow as a wrestler through the years. He’s also seen him mature as a man.
“He’s a very respectful, nice kid. Young man, he’s not a kid any more,” Peck said. “He just wrestles a physical style and just keeps on going. He pushes the action, and that’s what our sport is supposed to be. To some people, it may look like he’s being rough, but that’s just the way our sport is. … I remember when he was a youngster. He wasn’t quite as technical out there, but you can tell that he’s put a lot of time into it. It’s really paid off.”
Smith said a couple colleges who have expressed an interest in having him wrestle at the next level, where he’s interested in pursuing a career in Law Enforcement. At this point in his senior year, however, he’s remaining focused on getting back to the state meet and improving upon last year’s seventh place finish in Columbus.
“I definitely want to place higher this year. I’m not going to settle for anything less,” Smith said.
With his 101st win — another first-round pin, this time over Beavercreek’s Bradley Smith later in the day — Cody Smith’s season record is now 29-1 with 20 pins.
Maybe in the year 2034, 18-year-old Carter will be racking up his 100th wrestling win, who knows? And he and his dad can look back at this yellowed article, tucked away in a scrapbook somewhere, and smile.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.