John Smith stresses to younger wrestlers the importance to be different.
He sees many outside influences in children’s lives now — such as cell phones, video game systems and television. For the younger generation to succeed — whether in life or wrestling — they have to go against the normal way of life for children.
“They have to go out and do things different than their peers and their teammates,” said Smith, the head wrestling coach at Oklahoma State who was in Crawfordsville on Wednesday to help at the Wabash wrestling camp. “I can see that right now younger kids have a tendency to stay in one spot and not do a lot to get better. They just do what their peers are doing.
“They just have to be different than most other children.”
Smith spent part of his time Wednesday — the final day of the camp featuring more than 300 young wrestlers — teaching different techniques and sending different messages to the young grapplers. Whether it was a certain move or one of the verbal messages he gave them, he hopes the wrestlers took something out of Wednesday’s session.
“I tried to keep things loose, but at the same time be strict with them,” said Smith, who has guided Oklahoma State to seven national championships in his 18 years with the Cowboys. “The last day of camp is always the hardest, because the kids are tired and worn out.
“This teaching was not all about wrestling, maybe they took out of this whole day some words of wisdom I gave them.”
Smith is just another in a long list of wrestling names brought to the Wabash camp by Anderson, who enters his seventh season at the Little Giant helm.
Smith was scheduled to be at Tuesday’s camp, but was stuck in Oklahoma City because of flooding. Iowa State’s Jake Varner, the 2010 and 2009 NCAA champion at 197 pounds, handled the instruction.
Helping Smith instruct the camp Wednesday were 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Stephen Abas and Olympic Silver Medalist Dennis Hall.
Along with Wabash, the only other camp outside of Oklahoma State Smith helped at was at Division III Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minn. Smith has helped at the Augsburg camp for more than 20 years. Augsburg won its 11th national title in the last 20 years this past winter. Smith also instructs a four-week camp at Oklahoma State that features around 2,500 wrestlers.
Anderson tried getting Smith to his camp the last two or three years. Smith heard of the camp because two of his former college teammates had helped out at previous Wabash camps.
“I just stayed on him and kept calling him,” Anderson said. “I just always try to get the best guys in here to make this camp even better.”
While Augsburg is a wrestling powerhouse that all other Division III schools chase after, Smith said one advantage Wabash has over the Minneapolis school is its facilities.
“Not a lot of people have heard about this town, but a lot of heard about this camp just because of the people he brings in,” Smith said. “Some wrestling camps are just not good and are very poorly run, but
this camp is very good and you can see it in the organization.
“This camp just motivates wrestlers to get better, and you don’t see that in a lot of places.”
Smith had a successful wrestling career before he entered coaching. He was the freestyle champion at both the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. Smith wrestled at Oklahoma State, where he won national championships his redshirt junior and redshirt senior years.
“Winning a gold medal or national championship gives you a sense of self accomplishment,” Smith said. “Being a coach and either winning a national championship, or even doing better than what you were expected, you know you have touched several people by doing that.
“Coaching gives you10 times the enjoyment of anything you do individually."