Continuing A Legacy: CAC Dad Pat Smith
CAC dad Pat Smith knows a thing or two about wrestling. One of four NCAA All-Americans in a family nicknamed “The First Family of Wrestling,” Smith was the first wrestler in history to win four NCAA Division I individual championships. Now, through the Arkansas Wrestling Academy, Smith has partnered with CAC to offer 5-year-olds through twelfth graders the opportunity to learn the discipline and success that wrestling taught him.
After coaching college athletes at Oklahoma State for eleven years, Smith took a “leap of faith” and moved to Little Rock in 2007 to help launch wrestling in the state of Arkansas. Smith said it was his desire to mold youth that prompted him to leave one of the premier wrestling programs in the nation.
“I’ve coached NCAA champions and Olympic gold medalists in my years at Oklahoma State, and I get the most joy out of coaching kids,” Smith said. “I enjoy taking a kid who doesn’t have a lot of confidence, who can’t look you in the eyes, and molding him and building his confidence. I get more joy out of that than anything I’ve ever done, and that includes winning titles.”
And titles are not all Smith has to show for his career. He was one of just 15 athletes named to the 75th NCAA Anniversary Wrestling Team, and he has been inducted into the Oklahoma State University Sports Hall of Fame, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
CAC graduate Braden Zini is one of the many successful athletes Smith has coached. Zini, who began working with Smith when he was 12, competed in his first match as a freshman at Williams Baptist College last month. Zini said Smith helped teach him his work ethic and never-give-up attitude.
“There’s no question that Pat had a huge influence on my wrestling career,” Zini said. “He helped me perfect technique that led to three undefeated state championships… Pat made me want to become more and achieve something great. He believed in me and changed me, forever.”
Smith said seeing students like Zini go on to have their education paid for by wrestling is his goal for all of his athletes. Five of his current wrestlers, including CAC senior Cody Reynolds, will sign to wrestle at the collegiate level this week.
Smith’s two sons, Gus (first grade) and Boone (pre-K4) are already taking steps toward carrying on the family sport. Gus wrestles in the academy’s youth club, and Smith said Boone will possibly wrestle in a tournament this year. Both boys are in their first year at PV Elementary, a decision Smith said is one of the best he and his wife Chelsee have made. “We like the fact that there’s chapel every morning, that my kids can get up and say the Pledge of Allegiance and pray, and that God is in their lives throughout the day.”
When asked about wrestling’s impact on his life, Smith said, “It’s everything of who I am today.”
“All of the wrestlers I know who have gone through the sport like my brothers and I have are good citizens that contribute to society,” Smith said. “Wrestling develops that kind of character in a person. It teaches you how to handle failure, it teaches you to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. It teaches you dedication and how to make commitments, which carries over into life.”
Through Smith’s partnership with CAC, students can now enroll in the Arkansas Wrestling Academy youth program for 5-year-olds through eighth graders at a reduced rate. To learn more about Smith and the Arkansas Wrestling Academy, visit Go.ArkansasWrestlingAcademy.com.