USA Greco

You Never Forget Your First: Smith Claims National Gold

patrick smith us nationals
Photo: Tony Rotundo

LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Never underestimate the value of getting a monkey off your back.

Patrick Smith (Minnesota Storm) is done knocking on the door. That’s because earlier tonight at the Westgate Hotel and Casino, he finally picked up his heel and kicked it wide open. Smith, 26, overwhelmed a game Anthonie Linares (NYAC-OTS) in the finals of the 2016 US Greco Roman Nationals/World Team Trials Qualifier simply by doing what he does best — bring relentless pressure. Just like he had all day long leading up.

From the outset, Smith was in charge. He bullied Linares, 23, around the mat in the early going by controlling position and offering a high pace to which there was no answer for. A step-out point came first followed by a passivity knock on Linares. Soon after, Smith was in on chest lock he used to take away Linares’ base before spinning to the back for two takedown points. At 4-0, this all started to seem academic.

It’s not because Linares was waving a white flag. If anything, the opposite was in effect. The harder Linares fought, the more Smith turned it on. One more step-out closed out the opening period, giving Smith plenty of breathing room to operate with in the second stanza if he should so choose. Naturally, he decided on a different course of action.

After the break, Smith commenced with the same level of intensity and would be rewarded for his effort with his second step-out point for a 6-0 lead. By now, the tide was too strong for Linares to paddle against. A third step-out from Linares put Smith one point away from a victory he has been chasing going on three years. He could just about touch it, the glimmer of gold no doubt dancing in front of his eyes. The wait would soon be over, as Smith forced one more step-out for the decisive eighth point. Once he realized the score’s confirmation, a reserved-but-deserved fist pump carried the exclamation of the achievement.

With the win, Smith adds his name to a long list of Minnesota Storm competitors to earn a Senior National title. It also follows a strong series of performances from last week’s World Wrestling Clubs Cup in Budapest, Hungary, where Smith amassed a 3-2 ledger against international competition.

Before Smith returns to US action at the World Team Trials in April, he will be embarking on a trip to Sweden as he aims to continue his education along with participating in training sessions and perhaps, some tournaments. But for now, he has another championship to accompany the litany of other honors he has earned. He’ll remember this one the most likely. It has come during an interesting stage in his career as an athlete.

Plus, you never forget your first.

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