Dillon Smith tops Thorpe win list
BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS JIm Thorpe's Dillon Smith wrestles Mike Priest of Wyomissing during last year's AA Regionals..
Earlier this season, Dillon Smith reached a milestone that will keep any wrestler wearing Jim Thorpe's red, white and blue chasing him for awhile.
The senior 145 pounder is now the Olympians' all-time winningest wrestler with 133 victories.
That puts him in select company in the Thorpe grappling annals, as he has surpassed Mike Wernett, a 2000 graduate who had 115 career wins; Ryan Bennick, a 2003 alumnus, who had 106; Shawn Bradley, a 2007 grad, who had 105; and his brother Ethan, who graduated with exactly 100 in 2007.
"It was a relief to get the win record, and I'm happy about it," said Smith. "I didn't want to worry about that number anymore."
What Smith really wants to do is add to that total in Hershey, during the PIAA State Championships. Last year Smith was 39-8 and placed third at the District 11 Class AA meet, then added a fourth at the Southeast Regional to earn his first berth at States.
Smith's reward for getting to States? An opening match-up with two-time defending champion Dane Johnson of Shady Side Academy.
Smith wrestled tough against Johnson before dropping a 7-3 decision. Johnson went on to collect his third State title, but Smith fell to Elias Biddle of Warrior Run in the consolations by a 3-1 score, ending his stay at Chocolatetown.
Smith is hoping that experience will serve him well as he embarks on another postseason run, beginning with this weekend's District 11 tournament.
"This year I will be a lot more relaxed than last year," related Smith, who carries a 27-7 record into Districts.
Smith has wrestled his share of tough customers this season to get ready, including Blue Mountain State champion Josh Kindig, who he met in the Schuylkill League finals. He has two losses apiece to Bethlehem Catholic's Elliot Riddick and Norristown's Brandon Parker, a AAA District and Regional runner-up last year.
Among his accomplishments this season are titles at the Jim Thorpe Booster Club Christmas tournament and North Schuylkill's tourneys, as well as seconds at the Schuylkill League, Bethlehem Catholic Christmas City, Penn Cambria and Coal Cracker Round Robin tournaments.
"Dillon's an exceptional kid who has a lot of academic and athletic ability," said Jim Thorpe coach Guy Franko. "His best asset is his mentality. He keeps everything in perspective, and he always knows where he's at on the mat.
"He is probably best on his feet, but he has also gotten good off the bottom, too. He doesn't give up points easily. He knows wrestling."
Dillon will be wrestling at 145 in the postseason, a tough weight class, but he has faced top caliber opponents much of the season, which has him prepared for what he will face.
"Almost all of his losses have been by a point or so and could have gone either way," noted Franko. "Dillon has definitely improved this season, but his competition has improved, too."
"That definitely helps," said Dillon. "It has gotten me used to wrestling good competition, so I know what to expect. Almost everybody at 145, I've wrestled at some time or another and most of the matches have been pretty close."
The Olympians have a small number of wrestlers on the squad this season, so in the wrestling room Dillon often works out with one of his coaches, Joe Oliver, when he has to go live, while he drills with teammate Justin Mazzella.
"We also have some people come in, something we did during Mike Wernett's senior year, too, when we were in the same situation," explained Franko. "Dillon just drills and drills and drills."
The team has also practiced at Whitehall, giving Dillon a chance to match up against the Zephyrs' Seth Guth, a tough 152 pounder.
Dillon is also looking to wrestle at the collegiate level, and Franko feels his best could be yet to come.
"If he wrestles to his ability, he will do well," remarked Franko. "As he matures, he will do even better than he is doing now."
It would mean a lot to Dillon to end his scholastic career with a bang.
"Placing at States is even more important to me than the (victory) record," he mentioned.