Sports

Leaving a legacy

He created a storied program at Olympic High School.

Now, Darryl Smith is ready to end the final chapter in a saga he has wrestled with for more than three decades.

Although his retirement isn’t final until the bell rings on his final history class in June, Smith is preparing for a new career doing something he’s not as familiar with — relaxing.

After 32 years as a teacher and coach, Smith is ready to sit back and watch the sport that has been the love of his life, second only to his family — wife Jody and kids Erik, Holly and Ty.

But ask Smith how he got interested in wrestling and he’ll admit that his passion for the gridiron led him to the mat.

“I got into wrestling because of my love for football,” said the high-school lineman. “But I’m 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. How many guys that size do you see playing professionally?

“Wrestling is the most democratic sport in the world. You get what you put into it character wise and success wise. What could be more American than that?”

Now Smith is walking away having put in more than two decades in exchange for working in a job he loves. A job where he has found that success can be the little things, such as not stalling out, or the big things, such as making it to third place at state, as he did in 1994.

Although rumors circulated that he would retire in 1995, Smith said he was adamant about finishing wrestling at the same time he finished teaching.

“It seemed natural,” he said, adding that he no longer has the time and energy to put in six days a week, 10 months a year. “If I worked 40 hours, I spent that many on the mat and sometimes that was the only way to see me.

“On a match day, I’m at school from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. I’m 54 years old and I realized this somewhere around 46. But I have enjoyed the kids tremendously.”

Smith, who grew up in the area, graduated in 1968 from Central Kitsap, where he lettered in football and wrestling, and went on to Olympic College. It was there that he got his first inkling of what he wanted to do — work with kids. An interest test in college placed him as a firefighter, but Smith thought his social skills could be put to a better use.

“I’m a social person, so I said, ‘What about teaching?’ ” he said. After earning a bachelor’s of education from Central Washington University, Smith went to work in a career that he says has been very rewarding. “I’ve never had a boring day at school,” he said. “In 32 years of teaching, I can only think of a couple kids I didn’t like.”

He said he learned a lot about wrestling during his first teaching job in Sweethome, Ore., but wanted to return to the West Sound to be closer to family.

“With two young kids and both sets of grandparents up here, we wanted to get back home,” he said. “The (Central Kitsap School District) superintendent said, ‘Come here and we’ll take care of you.’ ”

But the plans fell through when the superintendent retired shortly after and Smith found himself without a job. So he went to work part time as a carpenter at the ferry dock and happened to be in the right place at the right time when the Central Kitsap Junior High wrestling coach resigned in November 1974, he took over the position.

And he took it seriously, too.

Although his team finished 7-3 during Smith’s first two years, the wrestlers kept losing in the lightweight and heavyweight categories. So Smith started a youth team, the Noble Fir Wrestling Club, to prepare young men for the junior-high game.

“It really helped because we were getting sixth and seventh graders who knew how to wrestle,” he said.

Klahowya wrestling coach Brad Hamblet, who grappled with Smith at CK and helped create Noble Firs with him, said Smith’s involvement went beyound the club.

“When Darryl was younger, he took kids all over to tournaments and that’s important to getting a program established,” he said. “He always came down to the junior high and made sure they knew he was interested in him. There’s not a kid around that doesn’t know how much he loves the sport.”

Joe Joslyn, a 145-pound wrestler, is one of those athletes.

“I’ve wrestled under him for three years and it’s been great,” said Joslyn, who also is a teaching assistant for Smith. “He taught me more about self-discipline and self-restraint.”

In 1976, Smith moved to Fairview Junior High and created a 10-0 program in his first year and continued working with his wrestling club. When Olympic, which opened in 1979, started its wrestling program in 1980, Smith transferred and he found instant success as both the coach and history teacher.

“One thing I am proud of is that we were league champions the first three years,” he said. “We beat Port Angeles, who was supposed to win league, and Port Angeles hasn’t beat us to this day.”

In addition, the Trojans found themselves some local rivals with North Kitsap and South Kitsap in the 1980s. But Smith has found no greater pleasure than beating the Cougars, against whom he has a career record of 13-11.

“We established the Battle of the Bay after a few years,” he said. “It has been a good, friendly rivalry. We both hated losing to each other.”

Over the years, the Noble Fir Wrestling Club grew to more than 80 kids and he continued coaching at Olympic and occasionally Fairview, in addition to coaching two wrestlers close to his heart — sons Erik, who graduated from Olympic in 1990, and Ty, who graduated in 1995.

Living with a successful coach presented his sons with a silent credo, Smith said.

“The boys wrestled with the attitude that you’re the coach’s son at a good program, so you should win,” he said

And they did their best to live up to their own expectations, even playing through pain.

“Erik was 30-1 going into the state tournament, and Ty never lost a match through junior high and high school except two disqualifications,” Smith said. “Ty got head-butter and had about five stitches in his forehead. He got frustrated and got disqualified for a couple of head slaps too hard.”

And his sons weren’t the only

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