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sider it. The staff was Jack and Rob Koll. My cousin told me it would be great for me. I knew I could always be a high school coach. I wanted to try this. I didn’t care if I wasn’t making much money. When I got there, Jack had little jobs for me. He said that I had to treat the program like it was my own, like I was the head coach. He asked me what I would do if I was the head coach. When I thought that way, I wanted to get more involved. I learned a lot from Jack. One of the things I learned at Cornell was building the alumni and fan base. At the Ivy schools, they do a great job with that.


USA Wrestling: You took the head job at Syracuse after they had announced the program would be dropped in the future. What was that season like? Smith: I was at Cornell five years. I told my wife if I could get a head job, it would be in the South. When they dropped the program at Syracuse, I was at Cornell, I went in there. I thought I might be able to change that. We had a big social and fundraiser at the Tavern on Green in New York City. But there was so much turmoil between the alumni and the administra- tion. When I got there, many of the kids had transferred. I had Jason Gleasman still. I also had good kids, state champions, who wanted to go there. Even if we didn’t have money in the program, kids would go to Syracuse. I asked them to just keep the program, let us build it back. They didn’t drop it for the money or because of Title IX. They dropped it because they wanted to drop wrestling.


USA Wrestler; Explain how the Missouri opportunity came for you, and why that job was right for you. Smith: In part, I thought I’d end up coaching back in high school. I was approached by Cleveland State and Missouri. I was fortunate. I had a chance to sit next to the AD from Missouri and we ended up talking. We hit it off and it was a good fit. When I took the Missouri job, the AD left after my first week. I was lucky. I got one of the best ADs for Olympic coach- es in the nation. He cares about every Olympic sport, but espe- cially wrestling.


USA Wrestler: Coming in, Missouri trailed the other Big 12 schools in performance. What was needed to raise the level of the Tiger wrestling? Smith: The first thing we had to do was change the culture. Kids in the state didn’t believe we could beat Oklahoma State, Iowa State or Oklahoma. You had to do the little things. I talk to people about our program now and I have to remind them we didn’t always have it good. We didn’t have a room, didn’t have a locker room. We had nothing. You pick the little things on a big list and you peck away at them. The first thing was to get a staff who was loyal. They didn’t have to be the best coaches yet, as long as they are loyal and buy in. You need that especially the early years. I had Lee Pritz and Bart Horton for eight years. They bought in. Then, it is getting the kids to believe the rules matter. The No. 1 rule of this program is you have to attend every class. They bought in about academics. It truly does mat- ter in life. It is walking the stairwell instead of taking the elevator. I developed a philosophy for the program we call Tiger Style.


USA Wrestler: How do you describe Tiger Style wrestling? Smith: The first rule is you have to believe. When we tell you to do this, you do it. If you keep doing it, it will make a differ- ence, ultimately in your matches. I do a four-week lecture each year about what Tiger Style is. The first level is belief. It’s about goals, attitude, loyalty to each other, respect. We talk about pur- pose and trusting. The second level is filled with competition.


Who has the highest GPA, the best at Mizzou, the best in the nation, even when we play kickball. People need competition. When you are not at your best, you know you have to get bet- ter. The third level is the One More. If everybody did one more, that one more thing makes a difference. It helps with dealing with failure, dealing with success, being uncommon. You will be asked to do more as a wrestler. Once you have bought in, then you walk on the mat and you expect to win.


USA Wrestler: Can you identify a point when you felt that your team believed they could compete with anybody? Smith: My fourth year here, we hadn’t had a winning season.


We beat No. 11 Illinois. The kids expected to win. They had confidence, focus and team effort. Combine it all together and you have Tiger Style wrestling.


USA Wrestler: What kind of athlete and person was Ben Askren, and how much did he mean to the Tiger program? Smith: He was the game changer. We needed him. He was a


total believer and wanted to make the program successful. When we recruited him, we sold them that he could become uncommon. He saw the progress we made. The others recruit- ing him said at Missouri, you can’t become a national champion. We said you could be the first. He wanted to be the first. He liked the idea of being part of something new and special. Ben’s work ethic was amazing. Ben did the right things. He had the strongest mindset. I never saw anybody more confident. I could- n’t have asked for a better kid to be my first national champion.


USA Wrestler: Mark Ellis won a heavyweight NCAA title for Missouri in 2009. What was the key for him to win? Smith: He walked on at Missouri for football. I called the receivers coach and asked him if this kid quits the team, to bring him over to the wrestling room. It was not easy for Mark when he first started wrestling. We had so many studs in the upper weights. He was getting beaten by them all. He struggled his first year. He was ready to transfer and switch back to foot- ball. We had to change his environment. We moved him in with Ben Askren. It changed him. Ben got him to believe in himself. He needed a change and somebody to pick him up. It’s amaz- ing when you put kids in the right place, how it makes a differ- ence in their lives.


USA Wrestler: What helped Max Askren follow his brother and become a national champion for you? Smith: Max loved it here. But to be in your brother’s shadow


is difficult. They are different. Max is a lot more reserved and quiet. Ben is always talking and is outgoing. When people talk about his career, I often have to remind them that he was a three-time All-American and a national champion. He was a great wrestler and had a good career. But living up to his broth- er was hard. The toughest thing for Max was dealing with injuries. It came to the point when I said to practice and com- pete half of the time. It worked for him. It was gratifying to see. We stuck with the plan. We didn’t panic when he lost at the Big 12 Championships. We knew he could win that national title.


USA Wrestler: Last year, the Tigers won the Big 12 title, the last year in the conference. What was it like to go out on top? Smith: Most people don’t know how much work went into that. Back to Bart Horton, Lee Pritts, all the young men who came through this program. I remembered our first year, losing 40-0 to Oklahoma State. The week before we won Big 12, we lost 32-9 to Oklahoma State. We did not wrestle well. Seven


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