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Posts Tagged ‘John Smith

Day 6: The “Smith”-sonian … of wrestling in Del City

I’m sitting where Alexander Medved once sat … it’s a brown couch and I’m sitting across from the patriarch of the Smith wrestling family. Lee Roy Smith Sr., sits across from me showing Kyle and I pictures of the 10 Smith children. Four of them, you’ve probably heard of — Lee Roy, John, Pat and Mark.

Yes, we have the privilege of staying with Lee Roy Sr. and Madeline for the finale of day seven. Lee Roy Sr. was awaiting for us as we left the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. We’d just interviewed the Executive Director, Lee Roy Jr. (although I don’t think anyone calls him “Junior”), and he’d called up his parents and arranged a place for us to stay for the night before we head to Austin on Day 8.

The drive from St. Louis, where we stayed with Sara Levin, was a pleasant, but long seven hour drive. We’d stopped in Tulsa to pick up a new power adapter at the Apple Store. I’d left mine at the U.S. Cellular Center, so it’d be necessary that I get one to finish the trip with all these blogs and broadcasts. Yes, I’m a Mac head now and I love this little machine. It’s provided us with the ability to turn around great interviews and broadcast the show from pretty much any location — provided the internet access isn’t firewalled.

While shooting down towards Stillwater, I called up Roger Moore, former sports editor at the Stillwater News Press, who is now one of the play-by-play guys for Oklahoma State wrestling radio. Roger was about to do the John Smith show on 93.7 so Kyle and I tuned in and listened to Double 0 talk about the Big 12 championships.

When he’d given the phone number out as he was awaiting John’s arrival in studio, I called up and helped Roger fill about 10 minutes of airtime. As John arrived, we were pulling into the Hall. Lee Roy greeted us and showed us around.

He showed us the upcoming exhibit honoring wrestlers in the military which will be on display at the NCAA Championships this year.

This was a big moment for me, because while we were there to do a show, there was one section of the Hall I needed to see for my own self-serving needs.

It’s the Bob Dellinger Award. The famed wrestling reporter was named Amateur Wrestling News’ wrestling writer of the year for the first three years it was in existence, then the award was named for him and he removed himself from future considerations.

I first remember seeing this listing back in 2005 during my first visit to the Hall of Fame when I was working with the NWCA and attending my first All-Star Classic, held in Stillwater that year.

Well, I was fortunate enough to win the Bob Dellinger Award in 2007 and to be able to see my name included amongst some of the finest wrestling journalists of past and present, it was a deep moment of personal reflection.

While I write a column for W.I.N., Amateur Wrestling News’ impact to the wrestling world is well-documented, in fact, in many cases, it’s the only documentation. Flipping through old AWN’s was a great time-killer back in Pennsylvania. A wrestling fan gave us copies about two years ago of every AWN. Great history there.

I sheepishly sat on the floor, aimed my camera phone at my mug and the placard on the wall bearing my name “Jason Bryant, InterMat, PA” … the PA meaning my state of residence at the time. I still would have preferred it to say Virginia, but what am I going to do, complain? Situated just before me is Jay Hammond, the author of the History of Collegiate Wrestling and Andy Hamilton, a colleague in the industry. Great company to be associated with.

Bear with this personal rant for just a bit … the wall of AAU champions is just to the left of the Dellinger Award listings. So about five feet from the name “Gray Simons” … sits the name “Jason Bryant.” Two different sections, but to be on the same wall in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for an achievement as the coach during my time at Old Dominion is a special feeling. I’m happy to be able to say my name is in the Hall before the time I reached 30 … being able to see it left me without words.

We then sat down and did a good 50-minute interview with Lee Roy, talking about the Smith family and the upcoming June inductions for the Class of 2009, which I liked immediately because it included Chuck Yagla and two Granby High School alums, Pete Blair and Eddie Eichelberger.

I met Chuck earlier this year and we hit it off instantly. I never met the late Pete Blair nor had I met Eichelberger, but their legendary status back home in Virginia is still talked about. Blair won two NCAA titles for the Naval Academy and then picked up an Olympic silver medal along the way. He never started for Granby, but was coached by the late Billy Martin Sr. Eichelberger won two NCAA titles for Lehigh. They are both held in high regard because of their contributions to the sport.

Lee Roy talked about the other inductees and was looking forward to June, where folks could come out and take in the inductions. Want to go?

I wish I could explain the depth of the memorabilia on the walls of these proud parents. They’re proud of their children and grand children. Lee Roy Sr., walks over to a wall and points to a picture taken at a family reunion a while ago.

I ask “Where’s Mark?” in reference to two-time NCAA wrestling champion Mark Perry … the Hawkeye.

“There he is … there’s his little brother Christopher and there’s Mark with the hat,” said the polite Del City resident.

Kyle has a greater understanding of the history of wrestling than I do. Kyle started attending NCAA championships about the time I discovered the sport. In fact, he went to his first NCAA’s in 1995 … three months after I witnessed my first wrestling match.

We’re looking forward to stopping by another Smith family member later on in the trip. When we leave Houston after the Division II’s, we’ll drive through Arkansas and visit Pat at the Arkansas Wrestling Academy. It’s something I’ve wanted to talk to Pat about since he arrived down there. I’ve also never been to Arkansas, so I can cross that off my list.

Things that stood out about the day were numerous. Everyone’s retired for the evening and I’m just sitting here thinking about all the great wrestlers and coaches who have sat in this very living room. Admittedly, Lee Roy is the one Smith brother I’ve had the most interaction with during my time in wrestling. As the Executive Director of the Hall, he’s been helpful and generous to me. He didn’t bat an eye to call up his parents to get Kyle and I a place for the night. His place was a bit busy, for which, the details escape me.

I’d love to go into details, but I’m personally in awe of what is surrounding me right now. One day, I’d love to be able to walk into Dan Gable’s house and look at his wall of fame … seeing one of the great icons of our sport, John Smith, in a family portrait looking like John Q. Family Man brings its own sense of satisfaction.

I come from a small family I love very much … but this is a huuuuuuge family and you can hear it in Lee Roy Sr.’s voice, he loves them all very much. Next to John Smith’s 1989 World Championship trophy is another sizable trophy — from one of the grandkids’ 10-year-old baseball league.

I’d like to be able to tell you about how many grandkids there are, but hearing Lee Roy Sr., look at pictures, point and tell me just a little something about each of them is more than enough. There’s a gleam in his eye behind his box-framed glasses. He’s got two grandsons heading to wrestle at Oklahoma State next year — one you know about, Chris Perry of Stillwater, the other is Zach White of Del City. He says “you’ll know about him soon.”

Before Kyle turns in for the night, he asked Lee Roy a question.

“Were you nervous before Pat wrestled his last finals match?”

Lee Roy’s reply was priceless.

“I get nervous before all of them, little league or Olympics.”

Just … wow.

Here’s our two stints yesterday …



Written by Jason Bryant

March 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Posted in Blogging

Tagged with , ,

Four Points: I will take Chocolate Rain over October Sleet

Real freakin’ funny, Mother Nature. I’m completely amused.

I dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday on people announcing my intention to not only say I’m going to run a marathon, but to follow through on it. Steps one and two were accomplished on Tuesday. Actually, I’d begin with making the decision, then setting out to get some running shoes fitted for my feet, then actually set out on a journey.

The last time I stepped on a mat in any such competitive sense was probably three years ago when I was living back in Poquoson and working out at my old wrestling club, the PWA. I’d walk up to practice, roll around some, hit the AirDyne and catch a ride back home with the coaches. One of the AirDyne bikes in the Poquoson Wrestling Room was used by the 1984 Olympic Team — Goldie — as we call it.

Anyway, I walked two miles yesterday. It’s a start, because I’m 178 days away from the marathon. The plan will call for 18 weeks of training. I’ll need to get in shape before even starting this training. It’s like that Power 90 thing on TV — you can’t go from being a fat waste to ripped in 90 days, you need to build up to be in good enough shape to start something. I’m not a fat waste right now … I might have been at one time, but those days are actually long gone.

Steps I took a long time ago will make this easier. Not living a college lifestyle definitely helps, as does having someone who is going through the training with you.

Gas: $2.39
Weather: 43, raining and sleet and pretty damned miserable.
Days to go: 178

Ice Age? Not Hardly.
By the way, why am I in a sour mood at Mother Nature? I went home for lunch and when I drove back to the office, ice pellets were falling from the sky. It’s OCTOBER!?

My Facebook status has also been an easy target for folks who love to punish me over the fact I’ll be soon to endure my first Minnesota winter. Yeah, you  Sarah in Northern Va. … not funny. You, Tammy in PA and you Joe in Minnesota… not funny either. Chris, taking another shot from here in Minnesota. I’ll take the warning. Natanya in Naptown. I know this. Amanda, you’re now in the Deep South. Keep rubbing it in and thinking you’re funny.

The rest of you — I am not amused. That goes for Diego, too.

Some of you might not get this.

Wrestle-off Time
Tis the season for college wrestling intrasquad matches. It basically means we’re thismuch closer to kicking off the year. Last night, Indiana wrestled its Cream and Crimson intrasquad. Team Hernandez and Team Escobedo wrestled to a 16-16 tie. What some might find surprising are the individual outcomes, especially if you are thinking some high school studs can come in right away and expect to punk down the upperclassmen. How did guys like Vince Ramos and Nick Cook do? How about the outcome of Kurt Kinser and Matt Coughlin? Find out here.

Hall of Famers
Some differing news on the wrestling front with several individuals known throughout our sport getting inducted into various Halls of Fame.

Art Martori of the Sunkist Kids and John Smith, the head coach at Oklahoma State and six-time World & Olympic Champion, will be inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame on November 1. Wait, Smith? Italian? Yessir.

“I am half-Italian. It is always a proud side of my family,” said Smith. “There are a lot of happy Italians in Oklahoma about this. The athletes inducted are all tied to Italian blood. It is a proud people. My family has a remarkable history, having to grind it out for many years to allow the next generation to have a better life. It wasn’t easy for the Italian people when my family first came to America. They made a commitment to their family. My mother is as excited as anyone about this.”

Other notable Hall of Famers making the news are Jim Scherr, who’s heading into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame and Maryland native Bruce Malinowski goes into his state’s chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Pitching in
(Rich Tortorelli release)
Oklahoma City University faculty, staff and students including student athletes participated in the “One Give” program Oct.12 in an effort to spruce up the OCU campus.

More than 450 students, faculty and staff came out Sunday afternoon to participate in a number of projects across the campus. Members of both the men’s and women’s wrestling teams were a part of the “One Give” project. They’re pictured, and to read the full release, click here.

Written by Jason Bryant

October 22, 2008 at 5:03 pm