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Independence Girl Awarded College Scholarship for Wrestling

Zoey Smith is proving to be a force to be reckoned with.

The 17-year old Simon Kenton senior just ended her official wrestling season, and with it her last official high school wrestling match.

However, Zoey received a four-year scholarship to Cumberland University in Williamsburg for wrestling.

Zoey's father, Scott Smith, owns a Brazilian Jiujitsu gym in Ludlow where he is also the police chief and city administrator. Zoey spent time in the gym, learning the physical sport, and found that she liked it.

While a student at Summit View Academy in Independence, Zoey then a seventh-grader, heard an announcement about wrestling tryouts.

"I thought, I can do that, I think I'd like to try out," she remembered. "One other kid tried out, and he quit, so there really wasn't a team."

But that didn't deter her. 

She learned all she could about wrestling, despite her dad asking her not to wrestle.

"I used to wrestle," Scott Smith said. "I never wanted her to wrestle, and I asked her not to wrestle." He chuckled. "But she is stubborn. She liked wrestling and she was going to do it!"

Zoey went to regionals her first year competing. 

It wasn't easy for her, but she focused and thrived on solving problems associated with her participation in the sport.  

As the lone member of the middle school team, she had to practice with other teams at Twenhofel or Woodfill.

Mostly, Zoey wrestled boys.

"Guys are rougher, and want to use force and get it done," she said. "Girls tend to try and think it out more, planning their moves. Also, I have found that guys' strength is more in their arms, where girls seem to have more power in their hips."

She learned quickly to protect her head, because if a wrestler gets a hold on the head, they can toss the other wrestler around more.  Zoey acknowledged that she has been tossed around a bit.

Nevertheless, Zoey has brought home medals.  

She is on the Kentucky National Team and the Women's Supreme Team, so she will soon begin her off-season traveling with those teams all over the country. During the last year, dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to travel to find meets where she could compete.

Zoey was the only girl much of the time during her wrestling career, and she said she never apologized for being a girl, and after the first shock of having to wrestle a girl, most of the boys recognized a fellow athlete with a similar love of the sport and desire to compete.

"Most of the time the boys got used to me being around, and they like that I give them a run for their money," said Zoey, who is 5'2" and 138 pounds. "They usually treat me like a little sister, and try to always protect me. They look at me as a friend, a fellow athlete."

In between training with teams, Zoey tones and trains with Jared Peebles from Simon Kenton and Jeff Byrd at the Brazilian Jiujitsu. Byrd's son is a college wrestler.

Zoey said that discipline and consistency is the name of the game for training in weights and exercise.

"It was evident from the first practice that Zoey was going to be the perfect example for the younger girls involved in our club," said Jeff Byrd. "She is disciplined and works hard, and we all look forward to watching her as she moves to the next level as a student athlete. In addition, with the growing interest in girls wrestling it is hoped that the state of Kentucky will sanction girls wrestling and put a plan in place to promote it."

Zoey's younger brother, Parker, is also a budding wrestler, while her younger sister, Allison, isn't interested.

Zoey has been contacted by other girls who are wrestling and they ask her for advice.

"I usually tell them 'Don't take no for an answer'," she stated. "When wrestling gets hard it can really suck sometimes, and you have to work through the pain and the hard times. It does get better. Don't give up if you love the sport."

She also said that it is very important, as with any sport, to be a gracious winner and a good sport as a loser. 

She always remembers that no guy wants to lose to a girl, so a good athlete takes wins and losses in stride and never makes another person feel bad. 

Most of her friends are either wrestlers or friends of wrestlers.

She also warns girls that they may get hurt, and there aren't any whirlpools to soak the aching muscles in.

"I just ice whatever hurts," she said, "and then move on."

After wrestling, Zoey hopes to go into business.

But right now, she can't think of anything she would rather do than wrestling.

-Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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