In the town of Smyrna, wrestling isn’t just another sport…it’s a way of life. Starting in the Smyrna Little Wrestlers program, the boys of the Smyrna-Clayton region start young and move their way up to wrestling at Smyrna High.
An integral part of the wrestling program in town is the team at Smyrna Middle School, which won its 100th and 101st consecutive matches last week beating Milford Middle School and Laurel Central Middle School.
At the center of this team is head coach Steve Stewart, who has been at the helm of the team since the program was started in 1971.
“Mr. [Ron] Eby was the athletic director at the time and asked me to coach. The first year I volunteered and then they offered me a stipend,” Stewart said. “I guess they wanted me to stay and coach.”
Since then the team has seen successful season after successful season, culminating with their 46-28 win over Milford Middle School Dec. 12 – the team’s 100th consecutive win. The program’s winning streak is the longest in middle school Henlopen Conference history, Stewart said.
The 100 straight wins date back to the 2001-2002 season.
This isn’t the first time the program has had such as streak. The middle school team went 98-0-2 from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s. Years later, Stewart never thought the team would make it this far.
“I never thought we’d be in this position to do this again. It started slow and as it got closer and closer, it became more of a goal,” Stewart said. “As teams came in, they wanted to keep the streak going, it became their goal. As we got closer to 100, kids were scared. They didn’t want to be the team to lose.”
Volunteer coach Charlie Poffenberger wrestled for the middle school program in 2003 and 2004. In his fourth year of volunteering, Poffenberger said he’s happy to be a part of such an accomplishment both as a wrestler and a coach.
“It feels good. I’m proud to be part of the team to claim 100 wins,” he said.
Jeff Campbell, an eight grader on the team, said it’s pretty cool to win 100 straight.
“I expected it, I have high expectations for this team,” Campbell said. “We wanted to win it for Coach Stewart, for his 100th.”
Not only does Stewart contribute the team’s success to the Smyrna Little Wrestlers program, but he said there are other people from assistant coach Jim Hewes to the school that have helped a great deal along the way.
Page 2 of 2 - “I just want to thank the volunteer coaches. The managers are also an important part of the team too and the fans are so supportive. A lot of the fans come to away games. They leave work to come to away games, which is hard, to help us out,” he said.
A challenging match for Smyrna Middle School this season could be their Thursday, Jan. 5 match against Phillis Wheatley Middle School. Last year, SMS only beat Phillis Wheatley by six points and then tied them in the conference tournament. With Smyrna only returning four starters and Phillis Wheatley returning nine starters, it could prove to be the match of the season.