The term natural is usually reserved for a few athletes.
But for Hunter Smith, the term applies to his ability as a wrestler.
Smith, a student at David Thompson School west of Red Deer, was encouraged by a friend about three years ago to go wrestling practice with him. The 15-year-old did and enjoyed it then. He’s stuck with the sport ever since.
“Some of the guys I train with in Cochrane have been wrestling since they were five years old,” said Smith. “To accomplish all that I have in two years is pretty insane.
“I still have a lot of time.”
Now in his second full season wrestling, Smith went to provincials in late February in Lethbridge. There he wrestled in the 82 kg weight class and won the provincial gold.
“It was awesome,” said Smith. “It was nerve-racking, but to go there and win felt really good.
“You work so hard during your season to get to those points. It was a pay off for all the hard work.”
Just after provincials Smith said he was talking with someone from the University of Alberta about wrestling with the school. Smith still has to get through Grade 11 and 12.
The victory at provincials put him into nationals starting on Friday in Calgary. He will compete in the Canadian Cadet/Juvenile Championships taking place at the University of Calgary.
Smith and three others drive from the Rocky Mountain House/Condor/Eckville area down to Cochrane three times a week. A rotation of parents takes them the hour-and-a-half to two hours drive down to practice with the Cowboys Wrestling Club in Cochrane. They leave school early to make practice.
But that’s not all the work the Grade 10 student puts in.
“There are extra workouts at school, waking up early in the morning and running or swimming,” said Smith. “Then almost every weekend there are camps or clinics with different coaches around Alberta.”
The camps take place in Edmonton, Calgary or even Grande Prairie. Last summer Smith went to California to train.
And when he can’t make practice he makes up for it at home, even running down the dirt road near his residence.
Getting ready for nationals, Smith said he has upped his intensity at practice and changed his eating habits to fit into his weight class.
He plans to wrestle in the 76 kg category, below his provincial winning weight.
“In the weeks leading up to nationals we’ll go super intense and then the week before drop the intensity down and do light work so I don’t risk anything,” said Smith.
“We take nationals very seriously.”