NCAA Wrestling Nationals, Session Two. Wells Fargo Arena - Des Moines, Iowa. March 21, 2013.
Beginning his career as Missouri's seventh Head Wrestling Coach, Brian Smith sat down with his team and made a list of goals that he hoped to help the 1998 squad and future Tiger teams accomplish. Over the past 15 years, Smith and the many men that have come through the varsity program have slowly but surely checked items off the list. Individual Big 12 Conference Champions, improved grade-point averages, record-setting attendances, a No. 1 national ranking and Missouri's first-ever NCAA National Champion in wrestling were all on Smith's "to-do" list. His unique TigerStyle training program has molded today's team into a national powerhouse that looks to contend for the program's first NCAA title in the recent future.
Since being introduced as Missouri's Head Wrestling Coach May 5, 1998, Smith has demanded nothing but the best from himself, his coaches and his wrestlers. Owning 12 consecutive seasons with a dual record at or above .500, beginning with 2001-02, Smith has coached 18 All-Americans to 31 top-eight performances and three Tigers to four national titles. Additionally, Smith aided in two-time National Champion Ben Askren's run through the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. During Askren's Tiger career, Smith guided the 174-pound grappler Askren to the program's first back-to-back National Championship titles (2006 and 2007). On March 21, 2009, Mark Ellis became the second Missouri wrestler in program history to collect top honors. Wrestling at heavyweight, Ellis bested his opponent, 3-2, in overtime with Smith coaching from the corner. In March 2010, Max Askren became the third national champion in the history of the program, as he dominated the No. 1 seed in the 184-pound weight class by a 10-3 score.
In 2012, the program reached several feats that had never been touched in the 66 years of Missouri wrestling. First, the team won the program's first conference championship ever, placing first at the 2012 Big 12 Championships with 77.0 points in front of their hometown fans at the Hearnes Center. They sent eight of their 10 wrestlers to the championship bout and crowned four individual champions while qualifying nine grapplers for the NCAA Championship. For their success at the Big 12 Championship, Smith was named Big 12 Coach of the Year for the first time in his career.
A few days later, the Tigers learned their 10th wrestler, redshirt freshman heavyweight Devin Mellon, earned a wild card bid to the NCAA Championship, marking the first time in program history that Mizzou had qualified all 10 of their starters. Additionally, it was announced that the Tigers were the only team in the country to qualify every starter for NCAA's in 2012.
And in 2013, after the University departed from the Big 12 Conference, Smith would do it all again. He led the Tigers into the Mid American Conference as an affiliate member, and took the Conference crown by storm, ending an 11-year reign by the Chippewas from Central Michigan. His squad posted a total of 136.0 team points, which shattered the MAC Championship record for team points. And again, all 10 of his wrestlers qualified for the NCAAs. He was named Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year for his accomplishments.
At least one Tiger grappler has been selected to compete at the NCAA Championship event in each of Smith's 15 seasons at Missouri and his squads have finished among the top-20 programs at the NCAA Championships in 11 of the last 12 years. In 2009, Missouri set the bar higher with a program-high five Tigers earning All-American accolades, the previous high, three, had been set on four occasions. In 2013, Missouri tied that program high with five placers at the Championships in Des Moines.
THE SMITH FILE
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Michigan State, 1990
Children: Quinn, Kylie and Braden
Missouri Head Coach
Syracuse Head Coach
MISSOURI COACHING RECORD
Big 12 Coach of the Year (2012)
NWCA President (2010-12)
Wrestling Commissioner for the Show-Me-State Games
Dan Gable Coach of the Year (2007)
Led Western High School to first-ever top-10 finish (1991-92)
Four-time Letterman at Michigan State (1986-90)
Three-time All-Big Ten Wrestler
Big Ten Runner-Up (1990, 126 lbs.)
Michigan State Outstanding Wrestler (1990)
Smith's teams have made a remarkable turnaround. Inheriting a program that had not seen a winning record since the 1991-92 campaign, the Tigers are now continuously ranked among the top-10 in the nation, reaching as high as No. 1 during the course of the 2006-07 campaign. On Dec. 12, 2006, the Missouri wrestling team became just the 11th wrestling program in history to earn a No. 1 ranking. Only a loss to eventual National Champion Minnesota forced the Tigers down in the polls.
The 2010-11 squad also accomplished something that no other Tiger team had done before, as they took home the team title at the 2010 Midlands Championships. Despite not having a single finalist, the Tigers cruised past the rest of the field with 103.5 points, beating out Wisconsin (93.5), Lehigh (93.0) and Iowa (91.0). The Tigers entered the final day in sixth place but had more wrestlers remaining than any other team in the tournament with eight. Mizzou ended up placing six wrestlers overall, with freshman Alan Waters leading the way with a third place finish at 125 pounds.
The winningest coach in program history, Smith has compiled a 189-88-3 record at Missouri and became only the second Tiger wrestling coach to reach the 100-win plateau. Hitting the century mark on Dec. 9, 2006, in Mount Pleasant, Mich., Smith's squad bested then-No. 11 Central Michigan, 31-9.
Smith's 50th career victory came with a win over Oklahoma on Jan. 26, 2003, helping the Tigers improve to 3-1 in conference action, while earning the most conference victories the Tigers have had in the Big 12 or Big Eight leagues. Since 2003, two of Smith's squads (2006-07, 2008-09) have matched the 3-1 league mark.
With a .695 winning percentage, Smith holds the highest winning percentage in Tiger wrestling history. In May of 2007, Smith's hard work paid off as he earned the Dan Gable Coach of the Year Award as presented by W.I.N. Magazine.
Building excitement and interest for the sport of wrestling, not only in Columbia but across the nation, Smith and his team have helped turn out record crowds in the Hearnes Center. On Feb. 11, 2007, competing against Iowa State, the Tigers packed in 2,772 fans with several thousand more watching the dual live on the Mizzou Sports Network (MSN). The mark bested the previous high by 644 spectators, a record set one year prior against Oklahoma State, Jan. 22, 2006. With record numbers of fans attending Missouri's duals during the 2006-07 season, the Tigers ranked fifth in the nation for attendance.
The demands that Smith puts on his wrestlers extend well beyond the mat. In the fall of 2002, his team had a grade-point average of 2.81, the highest GPA for a Missouri wrestling team under Coach Smith. In 2010, Smith had eight wrestlers with GPA's over 3.0. In all, 21 wrestlers have been recognized by the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA), Big 12 and CoSIDA for their academic achievements since he took the reins in 1998. Among that list is Tyler McCormick, a 2008 graduate and two-time All-American. In 2006, McCormick headlined the Big 12 All-Academic first team as the only grappler in the conference to post a 4.0 grade-point average. The Tiger All-American went on to become the first wrestler since Shaon Fry (1993) to earn ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America first team accolades and was later awarded one of 29 prestigious NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships in 2008. McCormick is one of four Tiger grapplers in the last five years to earn a post-graduate scholarship, along with 2004 graduate Kenny Burleson, Askren and 2009 graduate Joey Garrity.
Away from the mat and outside of the classroom, Smith's squad is committed to giving back to the community. Over the past seven years, three Tiger grapplers have served on the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) as president.
A 1990 graduate of Michigan State University, Smith's coaching career began at Western High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. From 1991-92, Smith led Western High to its first top-10 finish at the state tournament, claiming a second place finish in 1991 and a fourth place showing in 1992. Smith coached two state champions and led five wrestlers to top finishes at the Florida state tournament.
Smith's collegiate coaching career began at Cornell University in 1992. While an assistant at Cornell, he put together two of the nation's top-10 recruiting classes, a feat he accomplished without athletic scholarships, (Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships). Those recruiting classes helped Cornell take two Ivy League Championships, a 10th-place finish at the 1993 NCAA Championships and a 17th-place finish in 1994. At the 1994 NCAA Championships, one of Smith's top athletes, David Hirsch, became Cornell's first national champion since 1960.
In 1997, Smith took over the head coaching position at Syracuse University, helping to stabilize a program that was nearly eliminated. Before leaving for Missouri in May of 1998, Smith coached Jason Gleasman (HWT) to All-America honors.
A competitor himself, Smith was a three-time All-Big Ten wrestler and a four-time letterman at Michigan State from 1986-1990. As a senior, he was selected as the Spartan's Most Outstanding Wrestler. Competing at 126-pounds, Smith finished fifth at the Big Ten Championships in 1988, third in 1989 and second in 1990. Smith stands among the top-25 on Michigan State's all-time wins list with 84 career victories as a Spartan. He also stands tied for 19th on MSU's single-season wins list with 32 victories in 1990.
A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where his father coached football, Smith was a two-time wrestling state champion in 1984 with Oviedo High School and 1985 while competing at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
During the summer of 2003, Smith took 12 wrestlers, including graduates Austin DeVoe and Jeremy Spates, on the NWCA Collegiate All-Star International Tour. Smith served as head coach as the men competed in three cities in Greece; Athens, Thessaloniki and Larisa as well as Sophia, Bulgaria. Both DeVoe and Spates went 7-2 in their individual competitions.
The Florida native graduated from Michigan State with a degree in education and married the former Denise Dean in 1993. Brian and Denise, have three children, Quinn, Kylie and Braden. In the spring of 2009, Smith received his Master's Degree in Athletic Administration from William Woods University.