Jake Smith didn’t feel like he showed his true capabilities in the California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships in March.
The 132-pounder, representing California in the national event, took fifth with a 5-2 mark with a pair of pins. That included a 4-0 start that put him in the semifinals. His performance helped California take first with 317 points. Second-place Pennsylvania finished with 277.
“I thought I wrestled good, up to my potential,” Smith said.
It wasn’t that Smith wrestled bad when he took fifth at the state championships, he just wasn’t at 100 percent because of a shoulder injury he sustained in the season-opening meet in December.
Smith tore three ligaments and suffered an AC joint sprain. He tried to battle through it, but he was forced to sit out most of the regular season.
His first action back was in February 3-4 at the Mission San Jose Wrestling Tournament. The talented Smith took first at 126 pounds.
“I had decided to sit out for two months and let my shoulder heal,” Smith said.
Smith made that decision in part because he will be competing at the next level – Appalachian State – and he didn’t want to risk further injury.
In the span of one month, Smith had to go from injured and sitting out, to competing at the California state tournament, which is considered one of the strongest in the country. And while Smith came up short of his goal, a state title, he can look back on his prep career and smile.
A year ago Smith won the AAA Virginia State Championships while competing at James W. Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax, Virginia.
“I would have been disappointed if I never would have got that state title in Virginia,” Smith said.
Smith didn’t run into any old teammates at the Flo Nationals, but he did run into his old coach at Robinson, Brian Hazard, who was announcing the event.
“It was nice to see him and I got to talk to him,” Smith said.
But this 3,000-plus mile trip was more about work than catching up. This was a college-ruled tournament and a chance for Smith to show his versatility in styles from East Coast to West Coast.
“(On the East Coast) it’s more inside, banging and being real good on top and bottom. In California, guys stick on their feet more, they’re quick and have real good technique on their feet. Being able to learn both of those styles will benefit me in college.”
Up next for Smith is a two-month break before he heads off to college.
Follow Steve R. Waterhouse on Twitter @SRWaterhouse.