By JEREMY HINES
Southport senior Nathan Smith is the sports editor of his school newspaper. With the success he had on the wrestling mat during the offseason, his own name might be the biggest news on his sports section this year.
Smith competed at Virginia Beach, Fargo, Tulsa and various Indiana tournaments. He placed second in the Junior Men’s Freestyle Nationals at Fargo. In Tulsa he went 7-0 in freestyle wrestling and 5-2 in Greco-Roman. He won the USAW Brian Keck Memorial Preseason Nationals in Iowa. He also won the John Hurrle Memorial Invitational in Indianapolis and placed second at the IndianaMat Hoosier Preseason Open.
“Nathan kind of punched some tickets this offseason,” Southport coach Nick Skinner said. “He had not been in a national final yet and he went to Fargo and finished second. That gave him confidence and let him know that he belongs at the top of the podium.”
For Smith, it was the Fargo tournament that really boosted his confidence.
“The finals made me realize I can get to anywhere I want to if I put in the work,” Smith said.
Now Smith is hoping to bring some championships home in the Indiana state tournament. He has never won a title in the state tournament. He is a three-time regional qualifier, a two-time semistate qualifier and last year he placed seventh overall at the state meet.
“I want to win state,” Smith said. “That’s the goal. I also think I’m about 36 wins off of the Southport all-time wins record. That’s something I think would be super nice to get, that all-time record. I have yet to win a county tournament, sectional, regional or semistate title. If I could get a win in all of those my senior year that would be really nice.”
The Southport sectional has had some hammers in the 106-pound class – the only class Smith has competed in during his career.
Perry Meridian’s Alex Cottey won the sectional in Smith’s freshman season. Cotton went on to finish second in the state meet.
In Smith’s sophomore year, Roncalli’s Bryce Lowery won the sectional with Cardinal Ritter’s Joshua Johnson placing second and Smith third. Lowery went on to place fourth at state and Johnson placed seventh.
Last year Smith lost to Perry Meridian’s Toby Billerman in the sectional final. There were only three wrestlers in the sectional bracket, but Billerman went on to place third at state and Smith finished seventh.
Smith isn’t the type of wrestler that is always on the attack. He likes to feel his opponent out and learn from his style, then use the moves he feels will be the most effective.
“I’m definitely a counter wrestler,” Smith said. “I don’t take a million shots right off the rip. As far back as I can remember I have never been one to go and shoot a lot. I like to feel my opponents out for a minute or two and then go from there.”
According to Smith, he was able to make solid improvements this offseason as well.
“I had a habit of sitting the corner, which is a unique defense,” he said. “It won me a lot of matches, but also got me into trouble. I’ve improved with my down blocking and I’ve been working on a more traditional defense.”
After high school Smith hopes to wrestle at the University of Indianapolis and study exercise science. He is considering minoring in journalism as well.
“I love journalism,” he said. “I’ve been on our journal staff for three years now. I was a sportswriter for two years and now I’m the sports editor.”
For fun, Smith mostly enjoys wrestling and hanging out with his dad.
“I just wrestle a bunch for fun,” Smith said. “In the summer, it’s kind of nerdy, but I love to go hang out with my dad (Greg Smith). We do all sorts of things. We watch football, go birding, biking or just walking. I don’t even know if I like things like birding, I think I just really like to be out in nature hanging out with my dad.”
Coach Skinner says that Smith is a leader on and off the mat and a “really fun kid to coach.”
“He’s just a good kid,” Skinner said. “He is intelligent, funny and he takes care of business on the mat and in the classroom. He gets the work done and that rubs off on everyone around him.”
Smith is currently ranked third in the state at 106 pounds.