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Seven Minutes with Joe Smith

By Andy Hamilton, TrackWrestling, 10/06/16, 1:30PM CDT


This is the 16th installment of seven minutes. It's a series of interviews with college wrestling's top stars.

Most of the question-and-answer sessions last roughly seven minutes. Hence the name. Oklahoma State's Joe Smith earned All-America honors for the first time last season when he placed seventh at the NCAA Championships at 157 pounds, completing a 35-5 season as a true freshman.

Trackwrestling's Andy Hamilton recently caught up with Smith. 

Let’s say wrestling has one governing body and you’re the president, what would you want to change?

I would like a little more time between competitions so that maybe during the real heart of the season wrestlers have a little more time to train and focus rather than competing back to back. Maybe they don’t get enough time to think about what they’re doing but otherwise keep on competing and don’t have much time off.

Take me through your pre-match preparation: What’s the typical size of a last-minute weight cut for you? What do you put in your body after you step on the scale? What do you have pumping through your headphones during your warm-up?

Throughout the season, my weight cut and pre-match warm-up changes quite a bit. More toward the beginning of the season I’m a little bit heavier because my body hasn’t quite leaned out yet, so I tend to cut a little bit more that week of (competition), typically five to 10 pounds is what I aim for. But toward the end of the season, I like to come in, at most, five pounds over during practice and the day before. My body’s already leaned out enough that I’m cutting maybe three or four pounds the day of a dual and that’s with a simple drill.

In terms of warm-up before my match, most of the duals are a one-hour weigh-in, so I usually try to get a quick meal in my body and drink my liquids. Then I try to warm-up as quick as possible and after I warm up, then get more liquids in my body. You have such a short amount of time to prepare for your match with a one-hour weigh-in that (it’s) really critical with what you’re doing so you don’t get bloated or make yourself feel bad.

I never drink cold water or anything cold. I try to take room-temperature water or even warm substances. That’s just because room-temperature or warm liquids go through your body a lot easier than cold. After I drink my room-temperature water, I can drink cold stuff. In terms of eating, I like soups, something hot with some carbohydrates and salt and sodium in it and maybe a bagel and something.

We don’t listen to music in practice, so I’ve never listened to music as a warm-up thing. I always like to think of it like you can get yourself motivated with music, but then when you step on the mat the music’s off. I feel like that would throw me off. There are some guys on the team who listen to music and it helps them, but that’s just something I don’t do.

What’s the last thing you tell yourself before you set your foot on the line?

Prepare yourself for a tough match. You’ve got to go out there for a war. You can’t go out there thinking you’re going to really beat the guy up. I go out there thinking this is going to be a tough match and I’ve got to be prepared for whatever happens.

What’s one thing your coach yells that you can hear every time?

Pressure. When my dad, coach (John) Smith yells ‘Pressure,’ I know that’s a point where he’s wrestled long enough and he knows things well enough that when he says, ‘Pressure,’ he knows if I put pressure on this guy right now it’s a critical time to put pressure on him.

What’s the strangest thing that’s ever gone through your mind during a match?

We were wrestling in Gallagher-Iba and I can’t remember who it was, but I was wrestling a kid who kept tweeting at me the week before and the week of the match. I usually don’t check my social media. I try to stay away from it during the wrestling season, but my phone was blowing up because he was tweeting at me and talking trash, saying how he was going to come to my house and beat me. I didn’t reply or anything, but I wrestled the kid and I majored him. The last takedown I put him on his back and there were like 10 seconds left in the match and I remember my grandpa in the stands yelling: ‘Stay off the Twitter.’ That’s one thing I’ll never forget.

If you could go back and re-wrestle any match, which would it be and why?

I’d have to definitely say NCAAs in the championship bracket when I got beat by Jason Nolf. I wish I would’ve approached the match a little differently. I try not to think of it that much. I try just to go back to the room and think about what I did wrong and leave it behind me.

What’s the most interesting about you that has nothing to do with wrestling?

Me and my dad are world fisherman. We try to fish everywhere.

What's your best catch?

I caught a 26-inch rainbow trout in Alaska on a fly rod. 

What’s your greatest fear?

I have a big phobia of snakes. I was in sixth grade checking bobcat traps out on my ranch and I was barefoot. I was walking past this old barn and I got bit on the ankle by a copperhead. Luckily, my mom was about a mile down, checking the cattle. She heard me. I showed her my ankle and I had two big holes in my ankle. She had to drive me back to the neighbor’s. On the way there, I was passing out, going into shock. My mom kept on slapping me to keep me alive. I finally got to the Stillwater Hospital. They were going to life flight me over to Tulsa because they didn’t have enough anti-venom in Stillwater. But there was a tornado warning, so they couldn’t put me in a helicopter because there was about to be a tornado. They had to drive me in an ambulance all the way to Tulsa. I was in the hospital for about four days. I hate snakes.

We’re trying something different with the last part of the series. We’re giving every wrestler the opportunity to ask a question to the next guy we interview. Penn State's Zain Retherford asks: What is it like to wrestle in college with your dad as your head coach?

I really enjoy it. There’s no pressure or anything to it. I think of him just like any other coach. I think of it as an advantage because he’ll tell me really whatever he’s thinking. My uncle, Pat, had to deal with it with his brother being his coach. My uncle, Mark, had to deal with it. I’m not the first for being related to the head coach. Chris (Perry) had to deal with it. If I want to win, I’ve got to do it on my own. No one’s going to help you on the mat. If anything, I think of it as an advantage and I really like it.

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