By JARED BELL
Brian Smith had no idea.
When Smith pinned Providence’s Ryan Boersma to win the Class 3A Lockport Regional title on Saturday, the Homewood-Flossmoor 285-pound junior didn’t realize who he had just beaten.
“I didn’t know he was the No. 1-ranked kid (in the state) until afterward when my coach told me,” Smith said. “It felt pretty good.”
It made everyone take notice as an unranked wrestler toppled No. 1 and helped Smith become this week’s FCA Wrestler of the Week.
“As a coach, sometimes you have to be a realist – I didn’t think we had much of a chance to win,” said H-F assistant coach Jim Sokoloski, who first told Smith he had beaten the top-ranked kid in the state. “You never want to doubt your own kid, but we’ve wrestled Boersma twice before and he beat us pretty good.”
This time, Smith turned the tide.
After Smith pinned his way to the final, he won by fall over Boersma in just 26 seconds.
“Some of the doubters will say, ‘He just got lucky,’” Sokoloski said. “But Brian works on that move every day in practice. It’s not something he just lucked into.”
It was the first regional title for Smith, who started the season on the Vikings’ JV team
“I didn’t know that he didn’t know (that Boersma was No. 1) because in this day and age everybody knows where everyone else is ranked,” Sokoloski said. “But it just makes that moment even more special because he’s a kid that’s just excited to win a regional and had no idea who he beat.”
Smith only became a varsity wrestler after an injury opened up the varsity spot.
“I never thought I’d make it this far at all,” Smith said. “I began the year as the backup heavyweight. Our starting heavyweight was injured so I had to step up. I wrestled one match on the JV and the next day was when I was told I was moving up to varsity.”
After he stepped up and stepped in to the starting lineup, Smith has done nothing but excel as he placed at the Whitlach, won the regional and is currently 20-9 heading to this weekend’s Class 3A Quincy Sectional.
“I was excited and scared to move up, but I knew if I did what I had to do that I’d be OK,” Smith said.
He’s been more than just OK and now has the goal of making the state tournament.
“You can’t count him out,” Sokoloski said. “Two weeks ago, I thought, ‘Brian should make sectionals and that’ll probably be it.’ But how do you not give him a chance now?”
The upset and regional title helped Smith become one of four finalists for this week’s FCA Wrestler of the Week award, for which Sokoloski nominated him. Smith finished with 35 percent of the vote and won by only 41 votes in a poll that had 2,040 total votes.
“I found out I was nominated in Physics class when my teacher told me,” Smith said. “I knew right away what the award was and was excited to be nominated.”
Smith campaigned for himself on social media, while the school and his friends also helped to support him.
His family in Florida even helped vote for him.
“This was a rare opportunity as I have never seen one of our kids up for anything like this,” Sokoloski said. “We kind of go under the radar because football and basketball dominate at school, so it’s cool to see a lot of buzz and excitement for H-F wrestling.”
2019-20 FCA Wrestlers of the Week:
1/26: Tristan Daugherty breaks PND’s career wins record
1/19: Dylan Connell wins dream match with David Ferrante
1/12: Pucino wins first of many potential matches with Vandervere in front of home crowd
1/5: Joel Vandervere rallies to win Cheesehead
12/29: Ryan Boersma earns top heavyweight spot
12/15: Nicholas Renteria wins loaded bracket at Reaper Classic