News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Given to Fly

March 25, 2007

Given to Fly: South’s Brandon Smitley preparing for national meet

The Terre Haute South wrestling team had one of its better seasons in recent years this winter, and first-year coach Dave Stewart is still working hard with his youth program.

He’s also putting a large amount of energy — and he’s got a lot of energy — into helping senior Brandon Smitley secure a college scholarship.

Smitley was knocked out of the state tournament in the semistate by Evansville Mater Dei state finalist Ezekiel Zenthoefer, but the 125-pounder is preparing to compete at Cedar Falls, Iowa, in the USA Wrestling junior nationals Friday and Saturday. Smitley took runner-up honors at the Indiana State Wrestling Association folkstyle state tournament last weekend at Indianapolis.

Smitley lost to D.J. Rackley, who was an IHSAA state finalist from Franklin Central in the 112-pound class.

Qualifying for the national tournament could go a long way in helping Smitley get noticed by a Division II, Division III or NAIA wrestling coach with a scholarship to offer.

“That’s why we pushed Brandon into qualifying for the tournament. Coaches from all over the country will be looking at him,” said Stewart, who also had an Indiana University assistant coach visit his clinic. The assistant encouraged Smitley to apply to Indiana and be a walk-on for the Hoosiers.

Smitley was caught off guard by the invitation. Smitley’s four-year career at South wasn’t successful enough to draw attention from many colleges.

He was a regional qualifier as a freshman in his first year of wrestling. The 5-foot-1 Smitley’s first love was basketball.

“I loved it. I still play when I have time, but my height was an obvious disadvantage,” Smitley said.

So Smitley went out for wrestling. He advanced to regionals right away as a freshman under coach Henry Villegas.

Stewart had a similar story growing up. John Stewart, Dave’s late father told his son, “‘you’re too small for basketball and football,’” Dave recalled. “He put me in this wrestling clinic. I used to beg not to go.”

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