BY ZAKKARIAH ROLFE
In 2012, one of Section IV’s surprises at the state qualifying sectional championships occurred when Johnson City freshman Greg Kleinsmith took out Vestal’s Alex Francik 5-4 at 152 pounds to earn his first berth to the New York State tournament.
Unfortunately, 2013 didn’t end on quite the same high for Kleinsmith. His sophomore season began late after he sustained a concussion in late November, causing him to miss the first half of the campaign. He returned, but during Section IV’s annual dual meet tournament, Kleinsmith suffered his second injury and was told his season was over.
“Concussions are a serious thing,” Kleinsmith said. “I knew I was out for at least half the season but when it happened again, I was just devastated. I knew I couldn’t just ‘let myself go.’ I had to run and lift whenever I could. Freestyle and Greco still have an important role in my wrestling [career] and my dad and family had a lot of encouraging stuff to say to keep me going.”
Kleinsmith continued to support his teammates and cheer them on as the Wildcats won the Section IV team title. Now, he will try to capture a different set of team championships with his new squad – Wyoming Seminary.
When asked why he’s going to ‘Sem’, Kleinsmith mentioned a number of reasons, but the first was related to academics.
“The education,” Kleinsmith said. “I know I have a better chance at going to a Division I school if I attend a school such as Wyoming Seminary.”
In addition, his familiarity with the leader of the Blue Knight program, Scott Green, played a role. Kleinsmith wrestled at the Shamrock Wrestling Club out of Binghamton through his pee wee years with the coach and said that Green was a big part of his childhood success.
“Coach Green pushes me,” Kleinsmith said. “Even if I’m in tears, he doesn’t care because he knows it will make me better and I love that.”
“I’ve been Greg’s club coach for years and he is going to be a great asset to our program,” Green added. “He has the experience at national events in the international styles, and will now be fighting hard to earn a spot in our lineup. He will benefit greatly from guys in the room around his size. I am excited to watch him grow in our program.”
That growth will come not only from his practice partners but also the level of competition he’ll face throughout the year.
“They have one of the toughest wrestling schedules in the country and you know it, to be the best you have to beat the best,” Kleinsmith said.
He’ll attempt to do that this year, during which he plans to compete not only on the mat but also on the football field. When asked about his goals, he had a few things in mind.
“I want to wrestle as best as I can,” he said. “I know if I wrestle to my potential and I’m in shape I can give anybody in the country a run for their money. My goal as a Blue Knight is to not just get a great education but to meet new people from around the world and just do the best I can in everything I do.”