2016-17 VSN UPPER WEIGHT
WRESTLER OF THE YEAR
SPARROWS POINT HIGH SCHOOL
“The Real Deal” is a term that is thrown around in wrestling circles and it refers to someone with exceptional natural talent. The 2016-17 Varsity Sports Network Upper Weight Wrestler of the Year, Ethan Smith from Sparrows Point High School, is a grappler who has received that designation.
Upon arriving in Maryland as a junior at Aberdeen High, Smith became the talk of the wrestling community. People would mention his name, and it would be followed by, “He’s the real deal.” Eventually the entire wrestling community came to understand how much talent Smith was carrying around with him.
Smith, who is ranked No. 6 in the nation by FloWrestling, won a state title for Aberdeen last year and followed that up by winning the 2A/1A 182lb state title for Sparrows Point this season. Smith’s two-year Maryland record was 74-0.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. Maryland has some tough guys and I think it’s a good accomplishment for me to stay undefeated that long,” said Smith. “It’s only helped my confidence outside the state, on the national scene. It helps me on the mat with the mental toughness and just the nervousness that people get before a match. Coming here in Maryland and being a top dog helps me when I go out there. I’m confident in myself.
“It didn’t really change anything (coming to Maryland). I still wanted to be ranked on the national scene. That was always my goal in the back of my mind. So, I just knew I was going to keep working harder. I knew Pennsylvania was a really tough state for wrestling so coming to Maryland, I thought it would be different. You don’t really get those nationally ranked guys that I ran into in Pennsylvania.”
Smith made it to the blood round of the Pennsylvania state tournament his sophomore season at Greater LaTrobe High School. He admitted he didn’t start to take wrestling seriously until that spring when he placed eighth at FloNationals.
“My sophomore year, I wasn’t putting the time in that I do now. I just wasn’t as dedicated. Once I really knew that I wanted to wrestle at the next level that’s when I got serious about my training and really trying to get on the national scene.”
The senior, who has been ranked No. 1 each season by the Maryland State Wrestling Association, has made his mark on the national scene this year. Smith started out the year by placing third at the prestigious Super32 tournament in North Carolina. He capped off his high school career last weekend by winning a national title at FloWrestling’s FloNationals. Smith was third at FloNationals following his junior season.
“The amount of work it took in preparation for Flo was exhausting. (I want to give a) huge shout out to my coaches Kramer Whitelaw and Brandon Philips. It was awesome representing Ground Control Wrestling Academy on the big stage. Winning the belt this year was a stepping stone for me. Falling short last year in the semis was painful. So, I’ve been looking forward to getting my vengeance for a while. The hard work paid off and I finally did it.”
Smith’s amazing run on the mats helped contribute to Sparrows Point winning their first Baltimore County Tournament crown and finishing the season ranked No. 12 by the MSWA. The Point reached the 2A/1A state dual tournament finals and placed third as a team at the state tournament.
“It was really fun. It reminded me a lot of my freshman year (when Greater LaTrobe was second at team states). It was good to be in a room where you know everyone kinda wanted the same thing. Everyone was driven and motivated. So, it made practices fun. It made working hard better because everyone was doing it with you.”
The next step for Smith is a move to Ohio State where he will join fellow Maryland wrestling alumni, Myles Martin and Kyle Snyder, as well as an old teammate from Greater LaTrobe, Luke Pletcher.
“I’m really excited to get up there. To just have those partners in the room that I’ll have is exciting. I know Pletcher, so it’s just gonna be a good environment and comfortable for me to get better.”
Sparrows Point assistant coach Kramer Whitelaw has been instrumental in helping Smith take his wrestling to the next level. Whitelaw and Smith started working together shortly after Smith’s arrival from Pennsylvania.
“I met Ethan when he first moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania. I was working at a gym in Harford County (Get Fit) and we became practice partners,” said Whitelaw. “After a successful junior year at Aberdeen, Ethan and I continued to train together for FloNationals. When I decided to open Ground Control Wrestling Academy, Ethan came along, following me to Sparrows Point High School as well.
“In preparation for Super32, I packed about ten pounds of muscle on Ethan. We trained two-to-three times a day, five days a week, and he never complained. (He) never asked for a day off that he didn’t need, never brought less than maximum effort with every workout. He trusted in me, and believed in my abilities as a young coach. He was training to be the best in country. With training like a top caliber athlete, came the national recognition. Ethan broke into the national rankings after his performance at Flo, but then started climbing after an awesome third place finish at Super32. We went into that tournament with the goal of blowing up our name and turning a ton of college coach’s heads. Boy did that work out perfectly. College coaches started calling from all over the country.
“He is an incredible athlete, a hard worker, and a great all around kid. We have become more like family over the last two years and I am so excited to see what he will do on the college level and beyond. He will do great things at Ohio State.”