Cover Story

NIU Bound: Smith to wrestle for Huskies after quest for second state title


Troy Buchanan senior Brett Smith is set to continue his wrestling career at Northern Illinois University, but only after he looks to win a second consecutive state championship. 

A Missouri Class 4 state champion, Smith started wrestling at a young age. He estimates he started wrestling when he was four or five years old. He remembers watching his brother wrestle, which triggered his desire to wrestle. 

“He came out of his mom’s womb and he didn’t have a choice. He was going to wrestle,” Troy Buchanan head wrestling coach and Smith’s cousin Josef Wolfrum said. “The energy that he had, you knew he was going to wrestle.”

Smith, who has placed fifth or better all three years he has competed at the state tournament, won the Class 4 state title last season in the 170-pound weight class. Smith placed fifth while attending Holt High School his freshman season. He transferred to Troy Buchanan after his freshman year and has competed for the Trojans the past three seasons. Smith’s father, uncle and cousin have all served on the coaching staff in Smith’s time on the wrestling team. 

Smith placed second at the state tournament in his first season at Troy Buchanan during his sophomore season. Competing in the 160-pound weight class, Smith lost to David Brooks of Staley High School on a close 6-4 decision in the 2021 state championship. 

Smith completed his quest for a state championship last season with a 2-0 win over Hayden Trezek of Francis Howell in the 170-pound championship match. 

“Losing that sophomore year, I just worked a little bit harder,” Smith said. “Last year, I kicked it off hard. I was going as hard as I could. I wanted to win it.”

Wolfrum characterized Smith as “the image of Trojan wrestling.”

“He is always relentless,” Wolfrum said. “Always pushing his limits. Always pushing his teammates’ limits to the next level. And that’s what really separates him from everyone else. He has no quit in him. There’s always a fight in this dog.”

Wolfrum thinks Smith is ready to defend his Class 4 state title. He believes Smith’s setups are cleaner than they were a couple years ago. He also believes Smith has the right mindset to push himself for another state title. 

“If you want to remain on top, you’re going to have to do everything in your power to get there again,” Wolfrum said. “And he’s continuing to push limits. Even things that are outside of his comfort level. Just the non-stop grind and the mentality he has is really pushing him to that next level. And it’s really going to show at the state tournament in February.” 

Smith thinks his experience his freshman year at the state tournament helped prepare him to compete at the state tournament his junior year. There were not as many spectators at the state tournament his sophomore year due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

“It was for sure a big wake up call,” Smith said. “It was probably one of the most nerve-racking tournaments I’ve ever been to. People say it’s the big show and they’re not lying. My freshman year, I was out there scared wrestling. This junior year, I was still a little nervous but I could tell I’ve finally grown up. I can feel a little better about myself.”

Smith has stepped up multiple weight classes in his high school career. After wrestling at 145 pounds his freshman year, he is up to the 175-pound weight class this season. He wrestled at 170 pounds last year in his state championship campaign. 

After he completes his senior season and his quest for back-to-back state championships, Smith will compete at Northern Illinois University, an NCAA Division I school. Smith announced his commitment to the Huskies in January. 

“I was deciding if I wanted to stay close to home or go far,” Smith said. “I had a couple schools that were giving me some pretty good offers. This California school, I liked it a lot. They were giving me everything. Just the distance. I’m more of a family guy I’d say.”

Smith knew early on he wanted to wrestle at the collegiate level. Once he determined his athletic future at the collegiate level did not include football, Smith knew he wanted to wrestle at the next level. Smith was an all-state linebacker and three-time all-conference and all-district player in football.

“Last year or maybe sophomore year, I was planning to play football in college,” Smith said. “But then last year, I was like alright, I need to focus. The height’s not going to work out and I need to lock in on some wrestling.”

Smith anticipates starting his offseason work shortly after competing for a state title this season. He generally takes about two weeks off after the season before resuming work in the offseason. 

“From now on, I’ll probably be wrestling for five years straight,” Smith said. “There’s no break in between.”