Payten Smith finished off her outstanding high school wrestling career with two national championships.
The Maple Ridge Rambler wrestler was in Guelph, Ontario on the weekend to defend her national title from last year, and did so convincingly. The untouchable Smith won four matches by pin, all in under a minute, and without having a point scored against her throughout the tournament.
Then she entered the the nationals in Greco style – which is more about throws, not about ground fighting, and wrestlers are not allowed to grab their opponents legs.
The Greco style would seem to take Smith away from her traditional strength – shooting the legs. Her double leg takedown has taken the fight out of many opponents over the years. But in her serious approach to the sport, she has added a few weapons to her arsenal.
“I’ve done judo for two years now, so I’ve practiced throws a lot,” she said. “I’ve tried to educate my wrestling style.”
Smith did allow a point to be scored against her in Greco, but took the match for a second national gold.
Cody Osborn of the Westview Wildcats also won two medals at the nationals, taking bronze in both events.
Added to last year’s championships at the nationals and at the Canada Summer Games, her wins give Smith four national titles.
She put the finishing touches on a dominant high school wrestling career. Smith won provincial silver medals in Grades 8 and 9, then went on to take B.C. gold in each of the last three years.
“I knew she would win, but I didn’t know she would win the Greco, too,” said MRSS coach Bill McCrae. “In 26 years, I’ve never had the double winner. She’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached.”
The coach of the Brock University wrestling team also thinks a lot of Smith, and took her on a tour of the school in Saint Catherines, in an attempt to recruit her.
Smith’s plan was to attend Simon Fraser University, and she is impressed with its wrestling program.
Now she has a difficult decision, but concedes it is a First World problem to be able to choose between two great universities.
“It’s not a bad place to be in.”
She likes the many dual wrestling meets that SFU has with American colleges, and knows it would provide her with more challenging competition.
Both schools have good reputations academically.
Smith is a leader at Maple Ridge secondary, a student with an academic average of 89 per cent who is going to study health sciences.
Her long-term goals are to wrestle for Canada in the Olympics and to become a doctor.
If flinging people and healing them are pursuits that appear to be at odds with each other, Smith has reconciled that.
“I’m a different person when I fight,” she explains.
Her only coach, McCrae, has helped turn an articulate and mature academic into a warrior on the wrestling mat. As she leaves her high school career behind, she wanted to acknowledge him.
“He’s an amazing coach – more family than anything right now.”
She said it will be odd to have a new coach as she moves on in her career, but added: “He’ll always be in my corner.”