The world's oldest Olympic sport was on the chopping block this past year for future summer Olympics. The sport has since been reinstated, creating quite a commotion internationally and here in the states. In fact, youth wrestling participation is on the rise, and now former NCAA and Olympic stars are coming together to promote the sport. AGON Wrestling Championships has now hosted two events with the third one coming to Whitewater in January. Chippewa Falls native, Luke Smith is this week's Gordy's Athlete of the Week, as he comes out of retirement.
"Now that I have something that I'm working for, I think even the guys in the practice room notice, Coach is wrestling a little harder today and they can kind of tell the difference," says Luke Smith.
An assistant coach at Eastern Michigan University, Chi Hi grad and 2 time Wisconsin state champ, Smith has some training of his own to get done.
"I didn't even know who I was wrestling, I just said sign me up, let me know who I'm wrestling later, but I'll do it for sure," Smith says.
When approached by AGON wrestling to compete in his hometown state in an effort to build up the sport, Smith says it was an easy answer. Even though he hasn't wrestled in Wisconsin since 2001, Luke says he still carries lessons from his days as a Cardinal.
"Chippewa Falls, not just the program, but I think the town itself, just like your typical small town, hard working mentality," says Smith.
At Central Michigan University, Smith was 2 time conference champion and a four time national qualifier. Now he's applying what he learned as a Chippewa to his current lifestyle.
"Coach Borrelli was really good at talking about what it means for wrestling and how it carries over in life. About, you know, doing all the little things right and not taking short cuts," he adds.
Smith says his role as a coach has continued to develop him as a wrestler.
"Having to teach the guys and explain it to them and try to simplify it more. I think sometimes, when you've been in the sport a long time we have a tendency to over-complicate things and now you find a way to simplify the sport so you can teach it to other people," says Smith.
With all the years of wrestling and coaching experience behind him, Smith has another match to prepare for, this one for the love of the sport.
"With it being at Whitewater and wrestling the head assistant coach at Whitewater, he's probably going to be the hometown favorite, going into it but I want to be able to make it an exciting match and want everybody to enjoy it," says Smith. "And I want to just go out there and be able to kind of let loose and not worry about winning or losing and put on a great show, I want people to leave and say that was awesome."