POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. — Taking the term student-athlete to a whole new level.
Point Pleasant senior George Smith is extending his wrestling career after agreeing to be a preferred walk-on at West Virginia University on Thursday, May 23, 2019, during a signing ceremony at the Commons Area at PPHS in Mason County.
Smith — a four-time state qualifier with the Big Blacks — accomplished numerous feats during his tenure with the Red and Black, which included four Region IV titles, a quartet of top-four finishes at state and also won the 2016 Class AAA 106-pound championship as a freshman.
Smith became the 13th member of the 150 career wins club at PPHS this past winter, finishing with 162 wins over his four-year span — which is sixth all-time in program history.
Smith posted three 40-win seasons at Point and was the 2017 double-A runner-up at 113 pounds, plus placed fourth and third, respectively, over his final two years with the program.
Accomplished as he might be on the mat, it was Smith’s academic prowess that ultimately provided this athletic opportunity to compete at the Division I level.
Smith — who currently carries a 4.12 grade-point average — had already been accepted into the honors program at WVU, and Smith also received a substantial amount of scholarship funding to proceed forward with his educational pursuits.
However, with an accomplished prep grappler set to arrive on campus — the coaching staff at WVU reached out to PPHS coach John Bonecutter to get some background information on Smith.
The WVU coaches then approached Smith about the possibility of becoming a preferred walk-on, which also allows the program to use a potential scholarship on another building block for the future.
Knowing that he now had the possibility to continue wrestling while starting his collegiate career, Smith jumped on board immediately when the chance presented itself.
“This opportunity means a lot to me because I have been wrestling since I was three years old. I’ve always wanted to wrestle at the collegiate level, but I wasn’t really sure if I’d be able to because I’ve always known that I wanted to attend West Virginia University,” Smith said. “I think qualifying into the honors program was a big help with this, because a lot of my schooling will be paid for because of academics. Still, when I met with the coaches and we discussed the possibilities … I definitely knew I was going to wrestle again if they gave me an offer.
“This is a great moment for me and my family, and I’m definitely excited about the future and being a Mountaineer. It truly shows that all of the hard work is paying off.”
Bonecutter noted that Smith wasn’t really a hard sell to the WVU coaching staff, given what the two-year captain has meant to the Point Pleasant program over the last four years.
“He’s the type of person that is going to make your program better. He made our program better, and that was the discussion point when I spoke with the West Virginia coaches about George. He has the intangibles that you cannot coach,” Bonecutter said. “He’s probably not going to be the most athletic kid they’ve got, so he’s going to work his butt off. He’s going to show up for practice every day and he’s going to give everything that he has every day. And, you’ll never have to worry about him because he only does the right things … rather it be on the mat or in the classroom.
“He has focus, he has a goal and he has an end-game of what he wants to do at West Virginia. That’s why he was so valuable to our program, because those younger kids got to learn exactly what it takes to be successful at this level from him. He’s also showing them that the hard work can lead to something like this opportunity. He’s going to be really hard to replace for a lot of reasons, but he’s left a positive mark on this program. We are rooting for him to do the same kind of things at West Virginia.”
Smith acknowledges that the sport of wrestling means a lot to him, and having that to look forward to over the next four years is something that he believes will aid him in his college transition.
He also feels that his time at a program such as Point Pleasant has absolutely prepared him for the next step in his journey.
“It’s been a great ride at Point Pleasant. Winning state as a freshman was probably my highlight moment, but being a two-time captain for this program and winning the team title on the way out are pretty special memories too,” Smith said. “I’ve had some highs and lows over the course of my career here, but the coaches and my teammates have always pushed me to be the very best I could be every day.
“I’m not afraid of hard work, because it makes you better in the end. I know I have a lot of hard work to put in over the next four years at West Virginia, rather it be on the mat or in the classroom. I’m just ready to have fun with this next journey and see where it goes.”
Smith also humbly acknowledged that he did not arrive at this moment on his own.
As he said, a lot of people have helped make this moment possible … and he was very appreciative of everyone that has supported him along the way.
“I have a lot of people to thank for this moment, starting with my parents. They’ve always pushed me to be my best since I was young and they’ve invested quite a bit in my endeavors,” Smith said. “The coaches at Point Pleasant have always pushed me to be my best, all the way back to when I was little. They gave me a lot of confidence, which has played a big part in where things are right now.
“I also want to thank my teammates over the years, including my brother Chris (Smith) and my cousin Juan (Marquez). Being able to be teammates and train together with family was one of the coolest memories I’ll have from high school. A lot of people here in Point Pleasant are making this journey with me up to Morgantown.”
Smith plans to major in Exercise Physiology and is the son of George and Annette Smith of Point Pleasant.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.