It may just be his second in the sport, but the River Ridge wrestler has learned about sacrificing for the team, training hard and performing under pressure.
The sophomore began the season wrestling at 152 pounds, but he dropped down a class to 145 midway through the season.
River Ridge coach Joseph Mullinax said the move was made to benefit both Smith, and the team as a whole.
River Ridge had two wrestlers at 152, and no one at 145, so Smith would split time with teammate Seth Nama at 152, leaving one of them forced to wrestle junior varsity matches. At the same time, the Knights had a hole at 145 and were forced to either forfeit the class or use a JV wrestler.
“We weren’t really experiencing success at 145,” said Mullinax, who sat the two wrestlers down in his office during winter break. “We told them that it would benefit both of them and the team. We talked to Noah about dropping down and he agreed to make the change.”
Smith is 12-2 since moving down to 145 and is expected to perform well in this weekend’s Region 7AAAA traditional championship.
Smith said it wasn’t hard to change classes. He focused on improving his diet and said he now feels more comfortable at 145.
“I had to cut weight to get down here, but it wasn’t hard,” Smith said. “I just had to diet better.”
Smith, who doesn’t participate in any other sports, said he took up wrestling because he always liked to rough-house with his friends.
“I just figured I would try the sport,” he said. “At first, I had trouble with the rules, but I caught onto the moves quickly.”
Smith, who usually tries to pin an opponent in the first period, said the biggest challenge is getting mentally prepared before the match. He said he begins to warm-up and focus about six classes before his own.
“I don’t really talk to anyone and get in my zone,” he said.
Mullinax and Smith agree that a strong work ethic has made Smith what he is now.
“They always want to do live wrestling, and I have to explain to the guys that it isn’t all about that. It’s drilling,” Mullinax said. “(Noah) is one of the guys that drills 100-percent and goes full-speed. He is a technical guy. He always wants to know how he can improve, and he’s always willing to make adjustments to get better. He works harder than anyone on the team. He is very well-conditioned.”
Mullinax is excited to see how Smith develops during his final two seasons of high school.
“Whether he bumps up a class or stays at 145 next year, he is going to continue to get better,” the coach said. “He has already gotten stronger in the last couple of months. He has gotten a whole lot better and a whole lot more aggressive in his style. It’s scary to think that he is only a sophomore and he’s got two more years of growth.”
Before the season is over, Smith may have a chance to avenge at least one of his losses against Northwest Whitfield in this weekend’s Region 7AAAA tournament at Gilmer.