Carson Junior High eighth-grader Daniel Smith, Jr. ended his first year of wrestling with a big win during the Mesa Junior High School Wrestling Tournament on October 2. Smith placed first in the heavyweight division. Smith and his teammates wrestled against different teams from around the Valley.
Smith, 14, is the son of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community members Daniel Smith, Sr. and Davina Dallas. His maternal grandmother is Angelina Dallas and his paternal grandparents are Brian Smith and Vernetta Makil.
This school year was Smith’s first time on the wrestling team, although he has played other sports before.
“I just wanted to get a new experience,” said Smith.
“When Daniel approached me with the form to sign up for wrestling, I was surprised because he originally want to sign up for basketball,” explained Dallas. “I asked him why wrestling, and he said, ‘Because all my friends are doing basketball.’ So I signed him up, and then my next worry was where I was going to find size 13 wrestling shoes.”
During the Mesa tournament, Dallas was nervous for her son. This was the second match she had attended.
“My fiance, Phillip Morales, and I were waiting for about two hours, then finally it was Daniel’s turn to wrestle,” said Dallas. “I held my breath as I watched Daniel walk onto the mat to face his opponent from Mesa Junior High. Then the referee yelled ‘Wrestle!’ and my son pounced on his opponent. It was so exciting and fun to see Daniel wrestle.”
Morales, a former wrestler for Westwood High School, shouted some wrestling tips to Smith. With his family on the sidelines cheering, Smith defeated his first opponent of the tournament.
“The best part was when the referee held up my son’s hand in victory,” said Dallas. “I’m so proud of Daniel!”
Training, practicing drills and conditioning with three partners is key to becoming a successful wrestler. Smith said in the three-partner drill, they take one man down, get back up and take the other one down. They also “duck walk” for at least an hour every day to help with the fundamentals of changing levels when you take a double- or single-leg shot (when a wrestler tries to gain control of his opponent’s legs from the neutral/standing position). All the practice has helped Smith win his matches.
In addition to flexibility, strength and endurance are also very important in wrestling. “You have to be quick and learn how to keep on going when you’re tired, because if you’re tired and you give up, you’re going to lose,” said Smith.
Before the Mesa tournament, Smith defeated contenders from Kino, Smith and Summit junior high schools.
“It felt good to defend my opponent,” said Smith about his win during the Mesa tournament. “Also, [I like] knowing that I won the match and worked hard to get it (the win).”
Smith said his favored wrestling position is on the ground, because he doesn’t like being face-to-face with his opponent.
“It’s easier for me to wrestle on the ground when I am in the natural position. That’s what it’s called when you’re standing up, blocking up; that’s when I take them down,” said Smith.
“My strongest takedown move is the fireman (fireman’s carry), and my weakest is when I am on the ground and I try standing up or try to get back to my base,” explained Smith.
Smith would like to thank his family for all their support and encouragement.
“I would like to thank my dad, because he helped me and [encouraged] me to get out and try sports,” said Smith. “Also my mom for cheering me on and supporting me even when I lost.”
Next year Smith will be a freshman. He is looking forward to continuing with wrestling and also trying out for football.