By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
One might think that Jacobe Smith may still be in a funk about that last match of this high school wrestling season. But he isn’t.
The Muskogee High School junior hasn’t been sitting around thinking “what if” since that 4-3 loss to Bartlesville’s Michael Hamilton in the Class 6A 152-pound finals on Feb. 23 in Oklahoma City. He allowed Hamilton to get a one-point escape and it was the difference in the match.
“I let him up early so I would have more time to take him down,” Smith said. “It was hard to ride him because he kept throwing my hands off. I agree with the coaches to cut him (let him escape).”
MHS coach Bobby Jefferson said he discussed the strategy with Smith with 1:10 left in the match.
“We were not going to ride (Hamilton) for 1:10 and Jacobe was aware of that,” Jefferson said. “We also weren’t going to be chasing the guy all over the mat. He didn’t second-guess the decision to let him up.”
Smith hasn’t let that loss overshadow an impressive season in which he compiled a 42-2 record. One of four area wrestlers to make the finals but fall short of winning a championship, Smith’s also the Muskogee Phoenix Wrestler of the Year.
“I know I could’ve worked harder to have a perfect record,” he said.
But Smith’s season had plenty of highlights. One of those came early in the season in February from beating rival Broken Arrow’s Paden Bailey, 4-3. The win was meaningful to Smith because he had lost to Bailey in earlier competition.
“We had wrestled freestyle in the past, but I beat him the first time we wrestled collegiate style,” Smith said.
Smith now has a career record of 101-19, which also includes a 37-5 record as a sophomore and 22-12 mark in his freshman year. His only other loss this season was to an Allen, Texas, wrestler at the Yukon Tournament.
He has turned his focus to his senior season.
“I’m thinking about stepping up and being more of a leader than I have been,” he said. “I’m thinking I want to take control of our wrestling room and being a role model to the younger wrestlers who will be coming in next year.
“I’m basically learning more technique and being smarter. I want to learn when to attack and not to in certain situations. I feel I’ve got a lot of work to do.”
MHS coach Bobby Jefferson expects Smith will continue to improve.
“Jacobe’s a really blessed and gifted athlete,” Jefferson said. “He’s also become a student of the sport and you can’t be where he’s at without a work ethic. He will have a great senior season. Do I think he’s put himself position to do that? Only time will tell.
“I want him to have a collegiate mentality when he wrestles next season. I can’t say enough about him.”
Colleges are starting to notice Smith. Not only because of this past season, but achieving All-American status in summer competition.
“I don’t want to throw names out there right now, but I know where he wants to go and who’s interested in him,” Jefferson said. “I can’t wait to see if it pans out for him because he’s just a great kid.”
Smith becomes the fifth Rougher to be so honored by the Phoenix in the last six seasons. The others were Stacy McGee in 2008, Mike Vieira (2009), Quincy Mondaine (2010) and Lukas Etchison (2011).