De La Salle wrestler Solomon Smith reacts to injury with dignity, class
BY MIKE CLARK firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @mikeclarkpreps February 13, 2014 8:18PM
De La Salle’s Solomon Smith “brings a different dynamic to the wrestling room,” said coach Dale Burke (right). | Supplied Photo
Updated: February 13, 2014 8:19PM
Nothing in his brief wrestling career could have really prepared Solomon Smith for the situation he faced a couple of weekends ago.
Smith, a freshman at De La Salle, was facing Jake Stover, of St. Rita, in the 285-pound title bout of the Catholic League junior varsity tournament at Mount Carmel.
“I felt like I really had the upper hand,” Smith said. “He put his hand up for a move, but it didn’t end up well.”
In fact, when the two tumbled to the mat, their combined weight landed on Stover’s left arm, breaking the humerus bone.
At first, Smith didn’t realize what was going on. Then, he said, “I saw his arm. I felt bad that it happened.”
Stover’s parents rushed to his aid, along with coaches and medical personnel. It was a scary moment for all concerned, but Smith reacted the way we all hope we would in that kind of situation.
He went to the scorer’s table and said he’d like to do something for Stover. One of the workers said jokingly, “Why don’t you give him your medal?”
That’s just what Smith did — along with the bracket board that traditionally goes to the weight-class champions at every tournament.
Why? Because he was impressed with Stover’s composure in the toughest of circumstances.
“I thought he deserved it,” Smith said. “He didn’t do what I would have done; he didn’t run around screaming. He sat down. He was frantic, but he was (also) calm.
“When it happened, I just — I didn’t feel pain, but I felt empathy.”
It was a small gesture perhaps, but one that resonated.
Stover’s mother, Jacquelynn Stover, emailed De La Salle principal Jim Krygier, thanking Smith for the spontaneous act of sportsmanship.
“Of course, we didn’t accept (the medal and bracket board) but as a mother I cannot tell you how much that meant to me,” she wrote.
De La Salle coach Dale Burke, who wasn’t at the meet but saw video of the match, felt the same way.
“It brought a smile to my face when I read the email the mother sent over,” he said.
He wasn’t surprised that Smith, one of the least experienced wrestlers on the Meteors’ roster, knew how to react.
“He brings a different dynamic to the wrestling room,” Burke said. “You’d think a first-year wrestler coming in would be quiet. From the first day of practice, he was outgoing and upbeat.”
The aftermath of the match surprised Smith.
“When I gave (Stover’s parents) the medal, they said, ‘You know what, it’s OK,’ It felt like they were trying to comfort me.”
Getting recognized for doing what came naturally — De La Salle gave him an award after Jacquelynn Stover’s email arrived — was equally surprising.
“I didn’t expect diddly squat,” he said. “I expected him to take (the medal).
“This has been surreal. ... I want to thank his mom for being awesome.”
Stover is recovering from his injury, his mother wrote in the email.
Smith, who wrestled both on the varsity and lower levels this season, was practicing this week with his teammates as they prepared for the Class 2A sectional they’re hosting Friday and Saturday.
“He won some (varsity) matches, held his own,” Burke said. “The more experience he gets, technical skill-wise, he’ll be competitive.”
And as he proved at Mount Carmel, Smith already has what it takes character-wise to be successful.