Mitch Smith Returns to West Liberty
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – Former West Liberty University wrestling All-American and assistant coach Mitch Smith is coming home.
Hilltopper athletic director Jim Watson announced today that Smith has been handed the reins as head wrestling coach at West Liberty. Smith replaces Brian Davis, who announced his retirement from coaching following the 2014-15 season in order to pursue other interests.
“First of all, I want to express our appreciation to Brian Davis for all of his hard work and commitment to our student-athletes during his eight years with the wrestling program,” Watson said. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Mitch back to campus. As a former All-American and assistant with the program, Mitch is well-versed on our 50-plus years of wrestling tradition at West Liberty and he’s excited about the opportunity to help build on that foundation.”
Smith returns to WLU after spending the past three seasons as the founding head wrestling coach at Alderson-Broaddus.
Starting the program from scratch, Smith’s Battlers made their intercollegiate debut with an all-freshman squad in the 2013-14 season and just concluded their second full year of varsity competition.
Among the highlights of Smith’s tenure at A-B were a team championship in the 2015 Southern Virginia Invitational, a fourth-place finish in the 2015 West Virginia Intercollegiate Championships and a Top 20 ranking in the Division II Wrestling Coaches Association’s All-Academic Team rankings. Four A-B wrestlers earned national All-Academic Team honors last month.
“I want to thank Athletic Director Jim Watson and President Dr. John McCullough for this opportunity,” Smith said. “It’s a dream come true for a college wrestler to come back to his alma mater as the head coach. I’m looking forward to the process of getting our program back to where it belongs, ranked among the top teams in the country. My staff and I will hit the ground running to get that accomplished.”
Smith was a West Virginia high school mat legend at Ripley High School, winning three state championships and putting together a dazzling 195-3 record for the Vikings. He also won a pair of USA Wrestling national freestyle titles before heading off to NCAA Division I Hofstra (N.Y.) University to begin his collegiate wrestling career.
After two seasons at Hofstra, Smith transferred to West Liberty for his final two years and earned NCAA Division II All-America honors in 2009 and 2010. He was ranked No. 1 in the nation at his weight at some point in each of his two years with the Hilltoppers and finished his West Liberty career with an impressive 58-9 record.
He stayed on for two seasons with the Hilltoppers as an assistant wrestling coach under Davis before accepting the head coaching position at Alderson-Broaddus in May 2012.
Davis, a West Liberty Hall of Famer and former national champion, produced five Top 20 finishes at the NCAA Division II National Tournament in his eight seasons at the WLU helm. He coached nine All-Americans, including Doug Surra, the 2009 national champion at 141 pounds, along with national runners-up Mitch Knapp (2011, 197 pounds) and Jarrod Shaw (2010, 157 pounds).
His teams also succeeded in the classroom. West Liberty finished in the Top 20 of the NWCA National Academic team standings four times and 38 of his wrestlers were selected for the NWCA All-Academic Team during his eight seasons.
“I am grateful to West Liberty for giving me the opportunity to impact the lives of so many outstanding student-athletes over the past eight years,” Davis said. “I’m also grateful to have worked alongside some great coaches. This experience has enriched my life and allowed me to enrich the lives of others. I only hope I did these young men justice and served them well.”