Smallwood wants to wrap up senior year with a medal

Published 4:42 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

By By STEVE FRANKLIN, Sports Writer
Off the mat, Johnnie Smallwood is polite, respectful and joyful. On the mat, he’s anything but.
Smallwood has emerged as one of the Pam Pack’s top wrestlers this season with his aggressive demeanor, overpowering strength and his refuse to lose attitude.
Smallwood has shown tremendous improvement from a year ago when he went 25-15. The Pam Pack senior has posted a 36-6 mark this season and earlier this month won the 189-pound title at the 2009 Coastal Conference Championships.
For the better part of this year, Smallwood was bumped up to 215 pounds with the idea that he’d be stronger against 189-pounders come time for the conference, regional and state tournaments. The idea has paid great dividends.
Smallwood also thinks the move up in weight classes has helped.
The one that Smallwood would like to rebut most occurred in the finals of last week’s NCHSAA Class 3A East Region Wrestling Championships.
In the 189-pound final, Smallwood suffered a devastating defeat to South Central’s Matt Stoeckle, an opponent that Smallwood beat twice this season, including a victory in the championship final at the conference tournament.
Smallwood held a 2-0 lead over Stoeckle late in the second period, when he shot for a takedown against the Falcons’ star and missed. Stoeckle (45-10) capitalized on the miscue and put Smallwood on his back for a split second. The referee immediately slapped the mat and Smallwood was forced to settle for silver.
Nevertheless, Smallwood will make his third consecutive trip to the state tournament. He has gone 0-4 at states the past two years, but believes he’ll do a lot better this time around. Smallwood, the No. 10 ranked 189-pounder in Class 3A, will square off with Anson County senior Jamie Bennett (25-1), the No. 5 ranked wrestler in the state among Class 3A 189-pounders in the opening round of the NCHSAA Class 3A State Wrestling Championships in Winston-Salem on Friday.