Pat Smith dealing with adversity

by Berry Tramel Published: June 4, 2006
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STILLWATER - Last March at the Ford Center, John Smith jumped onto little brother's back. Oklahoma State wrestler Zack Esposito's pin in the NCAA Championships ignited a jubilee in the Cowboy corner; assistant coach Pat Smith gave John, his boss and brother, a gleeful ride.

What goes around comes around. Sometimes you carry your family; sometimes your family carries you.

Saturday night in the Student Union Ballroom on a campus known for no family moreso than the Del City Smiths, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame inducted Pat Smith. Humbled but with head held high, Smith talked of the highs and lows of wrestling and life.

Barely a month after a DUI arrest that cost him his job, Smith was surrounded by family. His fiance', Chelsee Vantrease. His parents, Lee Roy Sr. and Madelene. Seven of his nine siblings. "You can't get that for Christmas," cracked little brother Mark.

Pat Smith's future is uncertain. His fate, not so much.

Will he coach again at OSU, a school for which he won four NCAA titles and has assisted John for 11 years? Pat doesn't know. Doesn't even know if he will stay in wrestling.

But he knows he wants to take down alcohol the way he took down foes with a low single-leg, his favorite move. Pat says he's begun treatment for the demon that has led to three arrests in the last 10 years.

"Right now, I'm going through a tough time," Smith told the packed ballroom. "Five weeks ago, I got in some trouble. I take full responsibility.

"I'd like to apologize to my family and my friends and Oklahoma State University. My brother, Lee Roy, told me if I didn't come to this, it'd be all right. I made a foolish mistake, but I'm man enough to stand up for what I did.

"I believe what happened to me made a better person. I am committed to change."

Said Lee Roy Jr., the eldest of the Smith brother, executive director of the hall of fame and the instigator of the wrestling dynasty: "I couldn't be more proud of how he's assumed responsibility for his actions and the initiative he's taken to see that it doesn't happen again. We love him, we support him. He's very deserving of this honor."

Said the Smiths' mother, my personal family favorite, "He's handled it like a wrestler. A person used to intensity and discipline. Pat will do well with this, because he know discipline just through his sport.

"We're very proud of Pat. He's accomplished a lot the last 30 days. I know good things are ahead for him."

Pat Smith is glad this is the year he went into the Hall of Fame.

He could have been inducted in 2005, or several years before that. Two wrestlers in history have won four NCAA titles. Pat Smith and Cael Sanderson.

He was voted in last November; his induction was set for June 3. Thirty-six days after his arrest for driving under the influence.

Pat Smith sat at a corner table in a Union lounge Saturday night and said this timing was best.

"I believe it's definitely good for me," Pat said. "Forces you not to stay in hiding. Forces you to hold your head up high. Realize it's something that happened, but it's not who you are.

"I'm a good person. It's definitely a testing point for me. I'm going to take it all with my head up."

Maybe this wasn't happenstance.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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