By Jenelyn Russo     1/28/2015

It was at the urging of his football coach at Mater Dei High School that Jed Smith found his way into wrestling for the Monarchs.

The 16-year-old junior had only played football prior to starting high school. But the summer before his freshman year, it was suggested to Smith that he look at adding wrestling to his athletic repertoire because the sport is often beneficial to those who also spend time on the gridiron.

“I really liked it,” says Smith after giving wrestling a try that first year, “so I stuck with it.”

Now Smith has solidified his spot as a member of the varsity team in Mater Dei’s up-and-coming wrestling program, having placed in each of the tournaments he’s participated in so far this season.

Described by Smith as a “smaller team with more to prove,” Smith and his teammates don’t shy away from the bigger competition, something that has made them closer as a group and has proved successful on the mat.

“Everyone is really close-knit at Mater Dei,” says Smith of his team.

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Being a newcomer to the sport has provided its share of challenges for Smith, but as he competes in his third season for Monarch wrestling, the two-sport varsity athlete has been committed to putting in whatever it takes to make up for those deficiencies.

“The biggest challenge coming in as a new wrestler is that a lot of kids have been wrestling since they were little,” says Smith. “I have to work harder at practice. I put in extra time with coach to make up for the time I’ve lost so I can compete with them.”

Smith’s extra commitment is paying off, as Mater Dei’s head varsity wrestling coach, Luis Renteria, sees Smith establishing himself as a role model for the team’s younger athletes.

“He’s a coach’s dream,” says Renteria. “He’s always about the team, instead of himself, and that’s what sets him apart. His success is giving him more confidence. He’s beginning to believe that he’s good at this, but remains humble.”

While graduation remains more than a year away, the Orange resident has his post-high school sights set on traveling east to Annapolis.

“After high school, I’d like to attend the [United States] Naval Academy,” says Smith, “and I’d like to play sports and stay active in college.”

Whether he continues to wrestle or not, his experience in the sport, along with his faith, has taught Smith some valuable life lessons.

“You can go further than you think you can,” says Smith on what he’s learned from wrestling. “When you’re tired and you don’t have a lot left to give and you come out winning, you know God was there with you, helping you through that hard time.”