No pain, no gain: Smead battles through injury as region qualifier

No one can talk Warren senior Garrett Smead out of a goal he’s been striving for for years.

So the senior, recently cleared by doctors, will gut it out at this weekend’s Northwest Region Class AAA Tournament at Altoona Area High School.

Smead was forced to injury default in two matches at the District 10 Class AAA Championships two weeks ago in Erie, but still finished fourth to advance to regions for the first time. The top four in each weight class advanced, but there was a concern a few weeks ago Smead would even make it to districts due to a leg injury that has had him hobbling.

“My goal is to just have fun, take it one match at a time, and leave everything out on the mat,” he said Thursday. “I’m feeling good, my leg’s feeling a lot better.”

Warren coach Glenn Baldensperger said Smead may have been “50 percent” healthy at districts.

Plenty enough for Smead, who had been gingerly walking the track at the Warren County YMCA to stay loose. That doesn’t do justice to how hard he’s been working in the wrestling room all four years, and why he was named a team captain at the beginning of his senior season.

While junior D.J. Fehlman has been winning District 10 championships, which are well deserved, Smead finished one win short of advancing to regions last year as a junior.

“This is something I’ve been working for since I was a kid,” he said. “The injury was just a setback, but I’m not going to let it slow me down.”

Smead actually hurt himself attending a practice at Sheffield High School earlier this season, or an “extra practice,” as he calls it.

“My leg got caught underneath me and snapped,” he said. “I had a spiral break on my left fibula and tore some ligaments, which is why I have a plate and 11 screws in my leg.”

Baldensperger eased Smead back into the lineup as best he could, but a close match at Eisenhower High School had his workhorse chomping at the bit. Smead (13-4) gutted out a second-period pin at 170 pounds and Warren went on to win the match.

Smead didn’t wrestle again until districts, skipping a match at McDowell.

“I’ve been fighting an infection in my leg since districts, but it is better now,” he said Thursday.

You think an infection would keep Smead down?

“A lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to finish my senior year out and that I should just let it heal for college wrestling,” said Smead, “but this is my last chance to earn a state medal. This is something I’ve been striving for since I was in pre-school. I just keep my head held high and just work through it. I won’t let the pain slow me down.

“They said if I feel good then I could wrestle,” he said.

He’s never complained.

“I’m very proud of Garrett,” said his father, Tony. “He’s never been one to complain about things. He just adapts and tries to overcome. He works extremely hard both during the season and in the summer, and it was a bummer about the injury, but things seem to happen for a reason.

“He just said, ‘okay, I’ve got to get better and get back on the mat,’ and that’s what he did.”

“…I hope to do Warren County proud,” said Garrett Smead. “Top three advance to states, and my goal is to be one of them.”