After placing at the Section 6 championships four times previously, Eden’s Alex Smythe captured his first Section title in February of 2013 inside Alumni Arena on the campus of the University at Buffalo.
Smythe, a two-time New York State medalist, plans to win many more matches in that location as he committed to head coach John Stutzman and the Bulls a few days ago. He expects to begin at 157 pounds and possibly transition to 165 later in his career.
“I really liked the coaches and it’s a great place for college,” Smythe said, adding that he also considered Binghamton and Eastern Michigan. “I think we’re going to do really well in wrestling and I’ll get a great education. I also liked a lot of the guys on the team.”
He’s already familiar with a number of his future teammates.
“I know a lot of the guys and I know we’ll work well together,” Smythe said. “It was definitely a factor, especially since my best friend, Rocco Russo, is also going to Buffalo and we’ll be roommates.”
Smythe has been working with Russo and other local standouts to prepare for his last high school campaign after taking third at 152 pounds at the New York State tournament as a junior.
“I’m focused on being in good shape and winning all my matches this year,” he said. “I did a lot of training in the summer – a lot of wrestling and running. I worked out with guys like Rocco [Russo], [state champion] Renaldo Rodriguez-Spencer and Jake Weber. I also did a lot of Freestyle and Greco. Fargo was a good experience, wrestling the best guys in the nation. [He went 2-2 in Freestyle with two technical falls and losses by 11-10 and 12-10 scores]. I was right there, even in the matches I lost. I was close.”
He had similar sentiments about the state tournament in 2013. Although Smythe didn’t come into Albany as a high seed, he had a lot of confidence after a season of more than 40 wins, where his only setbacks came in close decisions against state champion Drew Hull and two-time finalist Eric Lewandowski. Taking first place at the qualifier provided him with a boost as well.
“Finally winning the Section title was a big weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I definitely felt good coming into the state tournament.”
At the Times Union Center, Smythe began with a major decision and followed up with a 3-1 victory over fourth-seeded Tyler Spann to make the semifinals against the bracket’s #1 grappler, Rowdy Prior of Phoenix. He had a lead in that bout going into the last two minutes before Prior turned the tide.
“I was winning 4-2 in the beginning of the third period when I got caught and pinned,” Smythe said.
He bounced back in the consolations, shutting out Brett Pastore of Irvington and then edging Spann for the second time to nab bronze. Still, he wasn’t quite satisfied.
“I was a little down because I came in expecting to win,” he said.
He expected to win partially because of the experience he had in his first appearance in Albany as a freshman in 2011. Smythe lost a 2-0 decision to the eventual champion in round one but rebounded with four victories in the consolations to work his way back to fifth place at 125 pounds in his ninth grade year.
“That was sweet,” Smythe said. “My teammate Tom Page [now wrestling at American] took third that year at 119 and he was a really good partner. Wrestling with guys like that in the room made me so much better. After I placed as a freshman, I thought I could place every year. I thought I’d make my mark.”
He began his sophomore campaign strong, but midway through that season, he tore his meniscus and wasn’t the same the rest of the way.
“I tried to wrestle but I wasn’t up to par,” he said. “I was losing to guys I beat earlier. I messed up at the Section 6 tournament and that was really disappointing.”
Smythe had surgery right after the season and worked through the rehab process. And he followed up with the third place finish in New York. With all he’s done since February, Smythe believes he “is much better overall and definitely a smarter wrestler.”
Now, he’s ready for a strong finish to his Eden career before making the short journey to Buffalo for college.
“I feel like I should have won a state championship last year,” he said. “But now my goal is to get that off my mind by going undefeated and winning the state title as a senior.”
Alex Smythe thanked his coaches, Tom Page and Chuck Rizzo, as well as his dad, for his wrestling success.