Athlete of the week: Hunter Smith, Zimmerman, wrestling: In his element

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

Hunter Smith was a wrestler and basketball player until he had to choose in eighth grade. His decision was not only good for the Zimmerman wrestling program but also pleasing to his parents.

Hunter’s dad Jon wrestled on the Elks 1981 state runner-up team and his uncle Tim was a state third-place finisher. His mom Polly’s brothers also wrestled. The Zimmerman couple’s first two sons played basketball for the Thunder, which was fine with them. Still, they hoped their youngest would come around to his roots.
“My parents both come from wrestling families and they wanted me to wrestle,” Hunter said. “I liked both sports, but in eighth grade, I knew which one I wanted.”

Hunter Smith recently celebrated his 100th win with mother Polly. (Photo provided by family)
Hunter Smith recently celebrated his 100th win with mother Polly. (Photo provided by family)

Wrestling has been by far the best sport for this 5-foot-8, 138-pound athlete who heads into holiday break his senior year with 108 career wins.

Smith is 10-3 with five pins this season at 138 pounds and has been one of the captains for three seasons. The three-sport athlete is also a state ExCEL award recipient and student School Board liaison, and he ranks second in his class.

Starting at 106 in seventh grade, when he had to wolf down a foot-long sub sandwich and bottle of water to make minimum weight, Smith was below .500 his first two years, then turned the corner. He was 24-16 and qualified for state as a freshman, 28-13 as a sophomore, and 32-11 as a junior, gaining state again. “It was a huge thrill to get through (sections) last year,” Smith said.

Asked about his style and strengths on the mat, Smith said he’s OK on his feet and OK at riding, but his best feature is working from the bottom.

“I always chose ‘down’ because I know I can escape,” said Smith, who typically gains control with a delayed stand-up and controls the opponents’ hands. “He’s got good quickness and he’s lanky and long-armed,” coach Pat Burch said. “When he’s on top, he rides the wrists and uses arm bars to go for pins.”

Smith handles the captain’s job comfortably.

“Hunter is very outgoing, very organized, well-spoken and very encouraging,” Burch said. “He’s just the nicest kid. He got that ExCEL award, and you have to have a lot on the ball for that.”

Smith was one of 16 boys named ExCEL section winners, an award for juniors with high marks in academics, arts and/or athletics, leadership and volunteerism. Both ZHS nominees were honored. Brooke Borchardt was the other.

Smith is on course for 14 letters (six in wrestling, three in football, five in track). In football, at 138 pounds, he wasn’t a starter, but rotated in and out at linebacker. In track, he does the 3,200 (personal best 10:56) and pole vault (9-6 in the first year Zimmerman had the event).

Smith hopes make state again and place in the top six this time. Mean-while, the 4.038 GPA student’s long-term goals are lofty: He wants to be a doctor.


Hunter Smith
Hunter Smith

Personal file — Age: 18 … Family: parents Jon and Polly; brothers Ryan, 22, and Brendan, 20 … Sports: football, wrestling, track … Other activities: National Honor Society, School Board liaison … Academics: 4.038 GPA … College plans: Concordia (Moorhead) … Ambition: be a doctor

Favorite stuff — Class: all the sciences, especially biology … TV show: “Family Guy” … Movie: “Dumb and Dumber” … Music: Michael Henry/Justin Robbinett duo …. Food: cheesy potatoes …. Drink: Dr. Pepper … Teams:  Zimmerman Thunder basketball … Athlete: Adrian Peterson … Hobbies: tennis, disc golf