You would think a man who has coached the Oklahoma State wrestling team to four national titles and won four world championships on his own would be stately or curmudgeonly.
Not so with John Smith.
The moment he entered SUNY Cobleskill?s gym for last Thursday afternoon's session of the wrestling camp that bears his name, Smith was a bundle of happy energy. His first order of business was to gather the campers in a circle and pick challengers for his counselors many of whom currently wrestle for Division I college programs to compete with.
Some of the challengers Smith picked were of equal size to his wrestlers. Others needed several years of growth to get to that size. But it was all in the name of having some fun before getting to the serious business of teaching the young wrestlers (who ranged in age from elementary school to high school) how to compete like an Oklahoma State Cowboy.
And in John Smith's world, having fun is part of being a wrestler.
"First, it's a privilege to wrestle (in college), and once you approach it that way, you'll enjoy the ride," said Smith. "We tend to think it's more work " it's not more work. You're training your body and your mind. And by first enjoying it, you'll become a winner."
This was the first year that Smith brought his wrestling camp to the east coast, and the response was impressive. More than 200 school-age wrestlers from the Capital District and as far away as Maine flocked to the Schoharie County town for a week of learning the techniques that make Oklahoma State wrestlers among the top in the nation.
"I was very pleased with the first year," said Smith. "I was very pleased with the athletes I worked with. We do a lot of camps across the nation, and there are places where you wonder why you came. This is not one of those places."