It has been a little while since we last checked in with four-time World Team member and 2016 Olympian Robby Smith (130 kg, NYAC). Following his 1-1 performance at the Paris Worlds in August, Smith took a brief timeout to rest up from the year’s worth of training. He did get back out there in November at the Battle on the Midway (where he superior’ed Canada’s Korey Jarvis,) and he’s been at the OTC gearing up for the season ahead ever since.
Smith was preparing for a weight training session when this conversation took place, so it’s a snappier Q&A than what you might normally expect. That’s fine, as there were only two main topics on the agenda — the fervor regarding the World Team Trials and how he has approached the current phase of his training cycle. Due to his status as the Captain of the US Senior Greco-Roman Team, it felt important to get Smith’s take on Greco’s Trials procedures and the subsequent reactions from the community that have occupied the headlines. Naturally, the popular heavyweight wasn’t shy when it came to sharing his perspective.
Robby Smith — 130 kg, NYAC
5PM: Do you have a problem with the World Team Trials procedures between the way Greco is doing theirs, and obviously, the way men and women’s freestyle have their setup with the Final X Series?
Robby Smith: No, I have no problem with that. You know, Greco has been doing our own thing for a while now. Freestyle has parted ways with us for a couple of years and the only time we really come back together is for the Olympic Trials. I have no problem with it. I only have to weigh in twice for my Trials and they have to weigh in four times. You know what? If I worry myself with whatever freestyle does all the time, I’d be worried all the time. Yes, freestyle does things differently, they get different stuff from us. But — we’re Greco, we don’t care. We’ll show up and lace them up, just tell us where to be and I’ll be there. That’s all I’m worried about. I’m going to show up at the Trials, get the job done, and move on from there. And that’s all I care about. If they told me I had to do it within four weeks or whatever it is, I have to do it within four weeks. If I have to do it within a day or two days, then guess what? I have to do it within a day or two days. Whatever you want me to do, I’ll do it.
People are getting too upset over this and they shouldn’t be. It is what it is, deal with it and move on.
5PM: Given the history of the way Greco is structured, or maybe even treated and perceived by the other styles and the community in general, are you surprised there has been such a big response to all of this?
Smith: Am I surprised people are having a big response to this? No, because there are always going to be people responding to stuff like this. I’d be surprised if it’s a big athlete response because the athletes should know. Especially the top athletes, they should know how it goes with Greco and how we’re perceived in this country as a sport and as a style. There is always going to be somebody to argue with about something. People are worried about the wrong thing. Worry about making the Team, don’t worry about how the Team is going to be formed. Show up, lace up, do your job. If you do that, there should be no problem.
The big thing is, people are talking, it’s about the media spotlight, the coverage, and getting their names out there. They don’t want to do it anyways. Greco has always been put to the side in situations like this, so why do we still care about it? Why do we still care? Screw it. If it’s going to happen this way, let it happen this way. We don’t need to follow pace. Yes, I understand that sometimes we should and then people come back to us and say it’s our own fault. But we’ve never been given the chance before, so why should we expect to be given the chance now? Show up, do your job, and if you do your job right, you should make the Team.
That’s what I’m doing, and that’s what I’m worried about. I’m not worried about how it looks, the style of it, the different arenas — whatever. I’m worried about me making that Team and getting my medal. That’s it. I’ve got to focus on that. However they tell me I have to do it, then that is how I am going to do it. If it’s one day, I’ll do it in one day. Two days, two days. Four weeks, then I’ll do it in four weeks. I don’t give a shit, I’ll do it how I need to do it. People who are making such a big fuss over it need to get over it.
5PM: How are you doing physically right now? Are you dinged up at all?
Smith: I always have dings. I always have boo-boos, but no injuries. That’s what is nice, I don’t have any injuries. I’m about to be 31-years-old, I’m 30, and I’ve been doing this sport for almost 27 years now. There is always going to be something wrong with me (laughs). It’s a wrestler’s body. But I am at the best physical strength I’ve ever been in my life. I feel like an adonis, I feel ready to roll. I can’t wait.
The only thing is, there aren’t any tournaments I’m waiting to go to, so I am sitting here like a drug addict scratching my neck because I don’t have the chance to compete just yet. I am so excited to compete in Denmark on the 23rd and 24th of February and really get after it, and get some great competition there. The Thor Masters is a great competition, they get you a lot of matches. The Nordic style is a great style for a tournament. It’s a grinder, it is hard style of tournament, but you get a lot of matches and that’s what I need, match time. I need to get my matches in before the Nationals and the Trials and get my timing back on the mat. I don’t think I’m far off. I’m in great shape and I’m ready to roll. It’s just that there is a difference between working out in a room and wrestling on the mat, and that’s why I need to go to Thor Masters. Last year, it did me justice, it got me to where I needed to be. I had some great matches when I went over there, and this year, it’s going to do the same thing. Actually, I’ve been working a lot longer at this point. Last year, I only had two weeks of preparation. Now, I’ve had about four to five months of preparation. I’m in much better shape this year, and I plan on going out there and I plan on doing my thing.
I’m doing great right now. I’m in a great spot mentally and I am physically healthy, and I’m just excited to get out there and compete again because I feel like a caged fucking animal right now trying to hold it in. I’m ready to go. Iran, I was going to have the chance to get five great matches in at the Clubs Cup, but there was so much going on politically to where it wasn’t smart for us to do. I think Coach (Matt) Lindland did make a great decision. If anything happened to one of us while we were over there, that would have been horrible not just for wrestling, but politically, as well. It was just better to not put us in that situation.
But I’m ready. I can’t wait for this next year. The new rules, I love them. I think they’re great, the start is different, but it makes you figure out what you have to do and you have to change your style up a little bit. Working with the coaches here, they are starting to let me try to hit more moves and execute more. Matt really wants me to execute, execute, execute. Not just pushing anymore, so I’m really going to try to start putting that into my style. The blueprint is really working nicely, I’m loving it, and like I said, I can’t wait to get out there and put my hands on somebody.
5PM: That’s interesting to hear you say that, “Not just pushing anymore.” When I think of you, I mean, outside of the Russian (Sergey Semenov), I can’t really think of another heavyweight who is really as offensive as you or tries to score.
Robby Smith: Yeah, you know, I feel the same way. But I’ve been watching a lot of film and studying a lot of the athletes and myself, and there are times when I don’t take advantage of opportunities. I am leaving points on the mat. So, I am trying to take away those opportunities and take away leaving points on the mat. If I do that, it’s going to be very hard to beat me at the highest level and take advantage of small things. Not wrestling at the Worlds in the second round and trying to hit a beautiful duck under with :10; instead, do it with 5:30 to go. Get the guys thinking more on their feet and they have to move. Because if I’m trying to hit moves, they have to adapt to it.
We complain. It’s my fault, too. I complained after Worlds that No one works, no one works, no one works. Well, I have to work more. If I want to wrestle how I want to wrestle, I can’t let these guys change my style up in my matches. I have to make more opportunities for me in matches, and I have to do it. You know, I am wrestling another 286-pound man, but I have to step up and do that. I have to say, If you want to score, you have to create your own opportunities. That’s what we’re focusing on, everything I do, I finish to the mat. Every time I have an opportunity to score, I’m going to score. That is what I have to capitalize on, and capitalizing on that is what’s going to help me change my style.