Nate Smith named SMAA 2021-2022 Wrestling Coach of the Year

Smith led the Spartans to Dual State Champions and State Individual Runners Up

Nate Smith, Center, holding the Dual State Championship trophy with fellow coaches Brent Coleman (left) and Paul Rivard (right). Source: Grace Fleming

Sanford High School’s Nate Smith has been named the SMAA 2021-2022 Wrestling Coach of the Year. Smith led the Spartans to Dual State Champions and State Individual Runners Up. The team’s overall record was 17-5 on the year, second-best in the region.

“It was such a joy to be able to coach these kids this year,” said Smith. “I’m also blessed to have great support from amazing assistant coaches. I’m glad that the kids continue to get to do what they love and have a community that lifts them up!”

The season got off to a stressful start with COVID-19 restrictions, first considering all wrestlers to be vaccinated but ultimately deciding to pursue universal masking instead. Maine was among the few states that did not allow wrestling in the 2020-21 school year.

“At the beginning of the season we didn’t even know if it was going to happen,” he said. “The MPA was imposing a vaccine mandate for all wrestlers. After push-back, it was rescinded.”

Smith shared how last year’s canceled season and this year’s uncertainty presented many issues, including prospective college recruitment, chances at championships and team recruitment, stunted growth for future teams, and mental health and well-being for many athletes that had previously dedicated their sports careers to wrestling. Smith said he was relieved by the reversed position on vaccinations, which has allowed more talented wrestlers to excel this season. 

“Going into the season, I was hoping to see us maybe in the top three in our region and top five in the state” he shared. “After an awesome upset against Noble early in the season, we thought there were some sparks of a chance to do something special. Yet, throughout the year, we never were at full strength due to contact tracing and Covid cases.”

“When we were finally at full strength in the postseason, I knew we had a chance to possibly bring home a title. It was [hard] work to get the guys to believe it. Once they started to gain momentum, we were unstoppable.”

Smith adds that his captains and assistant coaches “are amazing and made some great things happen.”

Smith has been coaching wrestling at Sanford since 1999. He was an assistant coach for 10 years and then became head coach from 2009 to 2016. “I took two years off when my daughter was born and volunteer coached,” said Smith. He’s been back in the head coaching position since 2018.

Wrestling has been a long-time passion of Smith’s. “I started wrestling when I was eight years old and I have been joyfully addicted to it for 34 years now,” he said.

Smith also helps coach track and cross country, Unified Basketball and advises Student Council.

The Spartan Times asked Coach Smith’s fellow coaches and athletes to share a few words:

“Working with Coach Smith “Smitty” has been an honor and pleasure. I look forward to many more years by his side. His passion for the sport of Wrestling is remarkable, but his passion to see his students and wrestlers succeed in life is even greater. I can’t think of anyone who deserves this award more than Coach Smith. His years of commitment and service to others is appreciated and has improved so many lives” – Brent Coleman, Assistant Coach

“Smitty has been influential in my life as coach, wrestler, and friend. Smitty’s hard work throughout the years led him to this moment. I’m honored to share the corner with a man that loves wrestling but also understands the big picture of developing athletes for life after sports. In my opinion, Smitty goes down as one of the GOATS of Sanford coaches!” – Paul Rivard, Assistant Coach

“To say that coach Smitty’s workouts and practices were hard is an understatement. His love and sacrifice for the sport and his team are what lit a flame in each and every individual to give their all and then some. Coach Smitty took a team and turned it into a family, and I will forever be grateful for his devotion that led to our success.” – Hunter Ferland-Stevens, Senior Captain

“Smitty is a coach that genuinely cares about each person on the team and knows how each person wrestles, how good each person can be, and pushes you to be even better. Also, ‘I wanna see my baby!’ Trust me, he’ll know what it means.” – Jack Callis, Senior Captain

Share your Coach Smith experiences and congratulations in the comments, or send to spartan-times@sanford.org!

2 comments

  1. This season was so incredibly earned and deserved!!! So proud to have 2 of my boys be part of this amazing journey!!! LOVE this team and its coaches!! Can’t wait for the next 4 years I have with this program!! #WEAREFAMILY

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