Before this year's PIAA Northwest Region Class AAA Wrestling Tournament, Warren coach Glenn Baldensperger said Garrett Smead's "desire to be a good wrestler and compete speaks for itself."
High praise for the senior captain, who has announced his intention to continue wrestling next year at Mercyhurst North East, where he will join a Saints squad that finished second overall in the NJCAA Eastern District 1 Championships in 2013-2014.
"I chose Mercyhurst North East because I wanted to be close to home and I really liked the campus," said Smead, who plans on majoring in criminal justice. "I'm very close to (MNE head coach Aaron Cooper) because he was one of my summer travel team coaches when I belonged to the Ragin' Raisins."
Times Observer photo by Andrew Morrison
The dotted line
Warren Area High School senior Garrett Smead signs his Letter of Intent to wrestle at Mercyhurst North East beginning in the 2014-2015 season. Joining Smead is his mother Michelle, front left, his father Tony, front right, WAHS Athletic Director Jeff White, back left, and WAHS Principal Jeff Flickner, back right.
The decision to compete at the junior college level will allow Smead to transfer to a four-year NCAA school at any time without sitting out a year. Among his top choices are Division I Edinboro University and Division II Mercyhurst-main campus.
He'll also have a chance to get back on the mat after his senior year was sidetracked by a spiral break on his left fibula - an injury he suffered while getting in some extra work at Sheffield High School. Doctors recommended that he sit out the remainder of the season, but Smead returned to the Dragons' lineup in a dual match against Eisenhower (once he was cleared by a doctor) before making his way through the District 10 Tournament and on to regionals.
Smead wrestled into the semifinal round of the Northwest Region Class AAA Tournament with a plate and 11 screws still in his left leg. He's gone through more surgeries since the end of the season and says the leg is improving every day.
"There's no concern," he said, regarding his health heading into the college season. "I will be at one-hundred percent."
Even if he wasn't, good luck keeping him away from the mat.
Smead has been wrestling since the age of four and grew up around the sport while his father, Tony, coached the Sheffield High School team. Tony Smead has been an assistant with the Warren program throughout Garrett's high school career.
"It will be very strange not having him in the wrestling room or in my corner coaching me, but he'll be at every match he can go to to support me," said Smead. "Knowing my dad I'm sure he'll be coaching me from the stands."
One thing that won't need to be coached is Smead's work ethic. Baldensperger credited Smead with being one of the team's hardest workers, one of the reasons he was voted a team captain along with fellow senior Cody Gunn and juniors D.J. Fehlman and Alex Streich.
His father is proud of his son's work ethic, and says it's one of the reasons he opened eyes at Mercyhurst North East.
"Pretty much any other high school kid with a broken leg, they probably aren't going to come back that same season," said Garrett's father, Tony.
It was 55 days after his final surgery.
"I'm very driven to be the best I can be," said Smead. "(Wrestling) is my life pretty much. I eat, sleep, and breathe it. I can't wait to get back on the mat. It's taught me to have goals and to work hard for them. The only thing you deserve is what you earn."
Smead's goals after college include wrestling at the international level or venturing into Mixed Martial Arts. His decision to major in criminal justice comes from an interest in becoming a state police officer.
"The sky's the limit," said Smead. "I always have goals set for myself that seem impossible to others, but when I want something I'll do anything to make it happen. I'm not afraid of working hard."