Smith does his best work on the mat

Eric Smith doesn’t aspire to be Fred Astaire, but the Bremerton wrestler wants to get to the big dance.

He knows what he needs to do to get there.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do on my feet,” Smith said during a break at the Central Kitsap Matmen Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Smith had just dropped a 4-2 decision to Central Kitsap’s Chad Eickmeyer in the semifinals at 135.

“He knows my weakness,” Smith said. “That’s on my feet. Out of six minutes (three 2-minute rounds), I bet I was on my feet 5 1/2 minutes. That’s the one thing I’ve got to work on.”

Smith later lost 2-1 to top-seed Jeremy Larance of Sumner and finished tied for fifth at the Matmen Tournament.

The losses only reinforced what the Bremerton senior and team captain needs to work on if he’s going to achieve his goal of competing at Mat Classic XIV at the Tacoma Dome.

“I haven’t been able to go to state,” Smith said. “That’s my goal and I’ll do whatever it takes to get there.”

Smith was an alternate to sub-regionals as a sophomore and, despite suffering from mono, came within a match of advancing to state a year ago.

Smith was 23-8 with 11 pins last year — four of those losses coming in the sub-regional and regional tournaments.

“I started to get sick and subs and when I got to regionals, I just didn’t have any energy,” Smith said. Making it worse, he drew the eventual state champion in the first round at regionals.

Smith was 16-4 with 10 pins going into today’s Klahowya Klassic. His other two losses came in tournament finals.

The post-season starts in two weeks, when Smith and the rest of the Knights compete in the Narrows League Bridge Division sub-regionals at Central Kitsap on Feb. 1-2. The top four advance to regionals, Feb. 8-9 at Snohomish. He’ll need to finish in the top four at regionals to get to state.

Smith, who carries a 3.4 GPA, ran cross country to get in shape for wrestling and also plays soccer. But wrestling is his obsession. He’s been at it since starting with the Noble Firs youth program as a five-year-old at Central Kitsap and plans to compete at Central Washington University.

“I remember we had to split into two teams, we had so many guys to work with,” Smith said of his days with Noble Firs.

That hasn’t been the case at Bremerton High, which has struggled with numbers in recent years. Smith’s envious of wrestlers like Eickmeyer, who has the luxury of going head-to-head against a guy like Jason Mendez in daily practices.

“That just makes you better,” Smith said. “Our guys just don’t have the skills of guys like that.”

Still, he remains confident he can wrestle with the best.

“I’ll be right there if I can get better on my feet,” he said. “And I will.”

Smith’s more comfortable when he’s not wrestling in a standing, upright position. Once he’s down on the mat — it doesn’t matter if he’s on the top or bottom — he feels in control.

“You really don’t want to wrestle with him on the mat,” Bremerton coach Jeff Barton said. “You want to wrestle with him on his feet. That’s no secret.”

Barton said Smith sometimes puts himself into predicaments he doesn’t need to be in when he’s on his feet.

“He needs to be more patient and we’re working on different techniques that will help him,” Barton said.

Smith’s favorite move is something called “the guillotine.”

“That’s how I’ve pinned all my guys,” he said of the slick maneuver where he pushes an opponents head down and proceeds to roll him over.

That’s one way of getting his opponents off their feet. Behead ’em.

Sawyers, Gent

third at Matmen

It’s been three years since the Bremerton Knights advanced a wrestler to the state tournament.

This year, the Knights have a chance to qualify more than one.

In addition to Eric Smith (135), Bremerton seniors David Sawyers (130) and Adam Gent (171) and Joel Garrett (275) proved that they could be factors in the post-season with good showings at the tough Central Kitsap Matmen Tournament.

Sawyers placed third. His only loss in five matches was 12-8 to eventual champ Jason Mendez in the quarterfinals. It was Mendez’s toughest match of the day. Sawyers recovered to win three straight consolation matches, two by pin and a 5-4 decision over second-seed Jimmy Akiyama of Newport.

“It took a while to heat him up and get him going, but David can beat No. 1 kids,” Bremerton coach Jeff Barton said. “He beat the No. 1 seed at Lynnwood, too.” After hovering around the .500 mark, Sawyers has improved his record to 13-6.

Gent (15-4) reached the semifinals at the Matmen before losing 14-6 to Kasey Kilmer of Newport. He bounced back with two impressive wins, including an 11-1 romp over Central Kitsap’s Clyde Switzer in the battle for third.

“I think Adam should be the No. 1 seed at subs and he’s got a good shot at state,” Barton said. “When he moves and is aggressive, he’s really tough.”

Bremerton heavyweight Garrett placed fourth at Matmen, posting a couple pins to reach the semis, where he was pinned by Andy Bartell of Bethel. Garrett then whipped CK’s Scott Jennings 18-3 and lost 6-5 to top-seed Will Blaschko of Tahoma in the consolation finals.

Bremerton’s Wally Grobler (112) was the only other Knight to win a match at Matmen ... Georgia Taylor (160), who took a knee to his mid-section, collapsed in the locker room after losing his consolation match by injury default. He was rushed to the emergency room at Harrison Hospital, and later released.

The Knights wrestled Wilson on Thursday, Jan. 17 and will compete in the Klahowya Klassic today. Bremerton goes to Mariner on Friday, Jan. 25, its final match before the Bridge Division sub-regionals on Feb. 1-2 at Central Kitsap.

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