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Marist's Smith on the march at Moore-Prettyman

 

By Mike Garofola

Arthur (AJ) Smith's march into today's semifinals of the 18th Annual Moore-Prettyman Wrestling Invitational should be expected after a look at the Marist senior's resume.

Smith recorded a breakout junior season last year with a fourth-place state tournament finish at 189, and championships at the Dvorak and ESCC tournaments. As a sophomore he advanced to the state tournament with a 36-7 record.

Smith hasn't forgotten the wrestlers who beat him at the 2008 state meet. Ryan Robinson of Collinsville, who beat him the previous year in Champaign, knocked Smith out in the quarter. The Redhawk advanced through the back draw before he was beaten in the third-place match by West Aurora standout Mario Gonzalez.

"The two guys that I lost to (at) state are both back... kind of makes wanting to get back to the tournament with the hope of facing each of them that much more important.. doesn't it?", said Smith, just before mashing another victim to earn a place in the semifinals Saturday against Mike Zozulia of Neuqua Valley.

"It's the disappointment of those two losses in Champaign that's given me the motivation to get (back) down there and erase those memories."

Entered at 215 pounds after just coming off another successful campaign as starting nose guard for the Class 8A quarterfinalists, Smith looks to get down to his fighting weight and the 189-pound class before too long as he begins his quest for a long and successful post-season run.

Between countless hours training during the off-season in camps in both sports, Smith used what little time he had left to sharpen his skills as a student-athlete.

"Academics are all part of your eventual success too," offered Smith.

With his first championship at this 34-team tournament just two matches away, Smith and teammates Sean Raddatz (112), Diontae Brown (125) and Bob Bullington (285) each will look to stay alive in the championship bracket and help the RedHawks in their chase for the title with Plainfield Central, Neuqua Valley, Libertyville and Wheeling.

Marist currently holds fifth place (93 points) with Class A power Stillman Valley. Smith looks nearly unstoppable after his first round fall at 3:07 against Palatine junior Leshon Mejias, and a dominating performance in the quarterfinals that ended with a major decision (20-8) victory over Joe Diehl of Jacobs.

The No. 1 seed will face No. 5 Patrick Scully of Hoffman Estates in his semifinal Saturday morning.
 
 

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