The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

January 19, 2013

H.S. wrestling: Warrior Run's Smythe earns 500th career victory

By Bill Albright
For The Daily Item

JERSEY SHORE — When the Warrior Run Defenders opened their participation in the 2013 Jersey Shore Duals with a 60-9 win over Phoenixville in the Dawg Pound, it was much more than just another win for the storied Defender mat program.

For the past 42 years, the name Wayne Smythe has been synonymous with Warrior Run wrestling. During those years, Smythe and his wrestlers have recorded many wins, but perhaps none bigger than the win over the Phantoms. For the Hall of Fame coach, it was the 500thvictory of his career.

“Right now it is just a number,” said Smythe. “Ben Franklin said that wisdom is a reflection and, at some point in time, I will have time to reflect on it. Right now, I just look at it as an achievement by all the people at Warrior Run.”

As a former athlete and coach at Milton and now a PIAA official, Bob Greenly took a little time to reflect on what knowing Smythe meant to him during his career as a Black Panther athlete, coach and now a PIAA official.
“He has integrity, he is one of the most intense coaches I have been around and although he gives credit to everybody else, the credit for the success of his program really goes to him,” said Greenly. “He has surrounded himself with good people, he is a good Christian man, but his ability to maintain intensity through the years might be his biggest asset.”
Facing him as an athlete, Greenly was aware of the intensity he instilled in his wrestlers.
“Looking at him in the corner when I was wrestling one of his athletes, you could just see the intensity in him,” said Greenly. “After coaching 42 years, he is still intense. I know I couldn’t keep up that type of intensity for that long.”
Wrestling has changed in overall approach and technique and Smythe has had to make some adjustments to keep up with those changes.
“He has changed his styles somewhat in that you can’t go against Warrior Run, thinking this is what they are going to do,” said Greenly. “He has upped the ante’ as far as different technique is concerned and what else can you say other than that is he is just a quality person and a good guy for the sport of wrestling.”
Spanning his 40 years at the helm of the Defender program, Smythe was fortunate to have had a lot of outstanding athletes as well as dedicated assistant coaches to work with.
Included in the list of outstanding athletes are five wrestlers who won a cumulative total of eight PIAA state championships. They were Al Mabus (1977), Mike Litzelman (1978), Chris Cooper (1981), Jason Betz (1992, 1993 and 1994) and Jason Guffey (2005, 2006).
“We have had great kids and that is who the tribute for something like this belongs to,” Smythe said. “They worked hard, they produced and they have been very receptive to coaching. We were fortunate to have had good assistants throughout the years and a big part of this success is due to their contributions to the program.
“And we can’t forget our fans because when we go away for matches we sometimes have more fans there than the home team. The administration has also been very supportive of the program and considering all of those aspects,” he said.
When a coach has compiled 500 wins plus a multitude of other accomplishments, it makes it somewhat difficult to pinpoint those that stand out, and it’s the same with Smythe.
“It is hard to pick a particular event or situations that are more precious than the rest,” he said. “I more or less look at it as the whole ball of wax. Each contributed their special moments and were made up of special individuals and that is why I can’t put my finger on any particular one.”
During his career as a wrestler and coach, Smythe has seen many changes in the sport, both on and off the mat. However, those changes aren’t necessarily in the young athletes, but rather the culture they live in.
“I don’t think the kids have changed, but the culture has changed,” said Smythe. “I think that each generation has gotten a little bit softer than the one before. My generation is softer than that of my parents.
“Wrestling is a sport that rewards those who are willing to pay great sacrifices to what they do. We have great parents and the changes are not a reflection on them, but rather the way the times have changed,” he added.
Smythe doesn’t know much longer he will coach.
“I take it one year at a time and the 500 wins is a result of longevity more than anything else. I have been able to coach this long because the good Lord has given me good health. He has given me a very understanding wife and I have two daughters and none of those people have ever complained for a moment about the time I have spent away from them while coaching.”
After the opening win over Phoenixville, the Defenders dropped a one-point loss to unbeaten Cedar Cliff, then bounced back to pound Wallenpaupack 59-3.
They bounced back to post three victories in a row over Wallenpaupack (59-3), Jersey Shore (55-15) and Western Wayne (44-22).
“This was a good day for us,” said Smythe. “Cedar Cliff came in here undefeated, they are a good team and I think we wrestled real well in that match. We just came up a point short. We are a better team for having wrestled them and we were able to pick up what we need to work on.”
Smythe said the format of five matches in a day helps his squad. “It is a day where we get five matches in one day against some of the best quality teams around and that has to help us down the line.”