Bucs' Smith works his way back onto the mat

Dakota Smith may have run for a school-record 1,292 yards during the football season this fall, but on Thursday, it was all he could do to make it six minutes on the wrestling mat at West Ottawa High School.
Matt DeYoung
Feb 10, 2012

That’s because Smith has been sidelined for most of his senior season by an elbow injury and a long, slow road back to recovery.

“That was my fifth match of the year,” Smith said following his 7-3 win over West Ottawa’s Austin Sanders. “I was injured, then I just wasn’t ready mentally or physically.”

Smith, who advanced to the individual regional tournament as a junior, credits teammmates Allen Torres and Matt Mulcahy with helping guide him back onto the met in time for the end of his senior season.

“One of my best friends, Allen Torres, pushed me to get back into it, especially mentally,” Smith said. “He’s always after me to get going.”

Smith and Mulcahy both wrestle at 189 pounds, and the two have had some fierce battles during practice sessions at Grand Haven High School.

“Matt always pushes me in the wrestling room,” Smith said.

Sitting out most of his senior season was tough, especially for someone as competitive as Smith, who earned all-state honors as a running back for the Bucs this past fall.

“We need him,” Bucs’ coach James Richardson said of Smith. “He’s a competitor. He’s at his best in competitive situations, when his team needs him to perform.”
Smith admitted to being completely exhausted by the end of his match on Thursday. When his physical strength gave out, he turned to his mental toughness to carry him through.

“I was really tired, but once you get to a certain point, it’s not about you,” Smith said. “It’s just about how bad you want it, how bad you want it for your team, knowing how hard they’ve worked all season.”

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