EXTON — Art Smith has been at the helm of the Church Farm wrestling team for 30 years now, and every drop of experience and knowledge he has is every bit important to the roster he inherits every season.
With many of his wrestlers beginning their careers on the mat on the first day of practice as freshmen, Smith embraces not just the challenge of teaching them the sport, but translating the lessons that sprout from the trying competition.
Wednesday, in front of his home crowd, Smith won his 300th career dual meet when his Griffins defeated Bristol, 67-12, in a Bicentennial Athletic League dual. Church Farm followed with a 51-26 win over Academy of the New Church in a non-league dual.
“It’s a nice thing, I guess,” Smith said. “It says the program is on a good track. It’s really just about the kids.”
Smith’s message is clear. Any wrestler you talk to, the word “grit” will come up. Fans sat in the stands with pictures of Smith’s face glued to a popsicle stick with the words “refuse to lose” printed on it.
His kids may not always step on the mat with experience, but they do walk out there with an expectation that the only failure is not trying.
“He enforces grit and not giving up and refusing to lose,” junior 145-pounder Sebastian Corrales said. “There’s no excuses in our program.”
Corrales is one of three Griffins to reach the Class AA PIAA tournament since Church Farm joined the PIAA in 2008. Baffour Atakora-Bediako was the first in 2011, followed by Corrales two years ago and Noel Gilgeous last year.
Corrales (145 pounds) had two pins on the night, as did Senior Gyamfi (138) and Joel Gilgeous (182), while Yonbue Tanco (160) had a major and a pin and Edwin Kent (132) won two decisions.
Gyamfi, a senior, didn’t start wrestling until his junior year after pursuing basketball. It just so happened Smith was his chemistry teacher and he saw the raw talent that is showing on the mat these days.
“He was always pushing me to do it,” Gyamfi said. “It’s not about wins. It’s about how hard you work on this team. I’m proud to be a part and I feely happy for Mr. Smith because he’s had a lot of influence on a lot of kids. “
Smith is not one for the excessive adulation and hurrah that comes with achieving a milestone like 300 wins, but watching him coach, each and every kid, varsity or junior varsity, it’s evident he gets his satisfaction in watching them succeed, however grand or small that succeeding is for each individual.
“It’s something a lot bigger than just this team,” Tanco said. “Mr. Smith has been here a long time and we joke about that in school, but he’s been here a long time and poured his heart into the program. He’s getting what he deserves. I never did sports before I came here and I was told, ‘he doesn’t care if you’re good or bad, he cares if you’re trying hard.’”
Prior to the tri meet, Church Farm held a dinner for Smith, with alumni sending messages of congratulations and remembrances, both in person and via video.
Many of the same words you hear today when talking to Church Farm wrestlers, Smith heard from his old grapplers.
“It was touching for me, especially since they said a lot of what I’m teaching still,” Smith said. “That they’re still using that in their life shows me I’m doing something right.”
Church Farm 67, Bristol 12
113- Bocanegra (CF) won by forfeit (6-0)
120- Ramdeo (CF) won by forfeit (12-0)
126- Medina (CF) won by forfeit (18-0)
132- Kent (CF) dec. Anthony, 6-1 (21-0)
138- Gyamfi (CF) pinned Morris, 1:09 (27-0)
145- Corrales (CF) pinned Kollie, 1:37 (33-0)
152- Tanco (CF) maj. dec. Biggio, 13-0 (37-0)
160- Reyes (CF) pinned Perez, :53 (43-0)
170- Matthews (CF) won by forfeit (49-0)
182- J. Gilgeous (CF) pinned Wallick, 2:08 (55-0)
195- Burnett (B) pinned Valencia, 1:46 (55-6)
220- N. Gilgeous (CF) won by forfeit (61-6)
285- Lawal (CF) won by forfeit (67-6)
106- Kelly (B) pinned Coston, 1:44 (67-12)
Church Farm 51, Academy of New Church 26
120- Hurgaski (ANC) pinned Romdeo, 3:22 (0-6)
126- Medina (CF) pinned Antonyuk, 1:06 (6-6)
132- Kent (CF) dec. Wilson, 3-1 (9-6)
138- Gyamfi (CF) pinned Williams, :40 (15-6)
145- Cronlund (ANC) maj. dec. Jeffrey, 10-0 (15-10)
152- Corrales (CF) pinned Wynn, 2:31 (21-10)
160- Tanco (CF) pinned Roth, 5:44 (27-10)
170- Blair (ANC) maj. dec. Reyes, 13-5 (27-14)
182- J. Gilgeous (CF) pinned McCurdy, :57 (33-14)
195- Valencia (CF) pinned M. Trost, 3:24 (39-14)
220- N. Gilgeous (CF) won by forfeit (45-14)
285- Dybalski (ANC) pinned Lawal, 5:58 (45-20)
106- C. Trost (ANC) pinned Bocanegra, :50 (45-26)
113- Coston (CF) won by forfeit (51-26)
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