COLUMBIA — Quinn Smith had a problem while wrestling for fifth in the Class 4 MSHSAA Wrestling Championship on Saturday at Mizzou Arena.
The 103-pound freshman had two prominent voices in his ears. The first was Rock Bridge coach Travis Craig, and the second was his father. For most wrestlers, the decision to listen to their head coach is easy. However, not many wrestlers can say that their father is the head coach of a ranked collegiate wrestling program.
Brian Smith, coach of the No.12-ranked Missouri Tigers, sits in the stands leaning forward, hands cupped around his mouth to amplify the sound of his voice. He looks like he is suppressing the urge to jump down from the stands. Brian Smith’s disposition at this moment is the polar opposite of Quinn Smith’s.
“He was more excited than I was when I came up (to the stands) after winning yesterday,” Quinn Smith said. “I feel really good about the win.”
Smith said that he tends to listen to both Craig and Brian Smith while wrestling, but if his father gives him advice that he doesn’t want to take, he just shakes his head and continues on. Off the mat, Quinn Smith said that his father tends to give him advice on matches he’s wrestled.
“He knows everything (about wrestling),” Quinn Smith said with a grin.
Rock Bridge coach Travis Craig sees Brian Smith as a resource for wrestling instead of a possible rival for Quinn Smith's ears. Craig and Brian Smith talked match strategy before the district tournament, and Craig said they did the same before the state tournament. But with two coaches talking match strategy, who does Quinn Smith listen to in the end?
"Brian allows me to do my job," Craig said. "He's said before that I'm Quinn's coach on the mat, and he's not going to try to take that position."
Coaching aside, what makes Quinn Smith's run during the state tournament so impressive is that he lost to only one wrestler: fellow freshman John Erneste of Park Hill. Smith lost to Erneste twice, the first time 14-2. He kept the second match much closer, losing 9-3.
After his fifth-place match against freshman Guillermo Diaz of Raymore-Peculiar, Smith walked off the mat and into a tunnel. Smith is normally reserved after matches, but he couldn’t help but smile once he got off the arena floor. His day of wrestling was over, but he said that he’s looking forward to watching his teammates wrestle, along with indulging – even if it's only for a moment.
“I’m going to eat (when I get home),” Smith said. “I want to get a big milkshake after the tournament is all over.”