High School Sports

Smith’s persistence pays off

eabell@bhamherald.com

Mount Baker’s Natalie Smith, during the evening session of the Tacoma Dome’s Mat Classic state wrestling championships, used to watch wrestlers react to winning state titles, wondering to herself what she’d do if she ever accomplished the feat.

Smith had imagined that moment in her head more than a hundred times.

One thing I remembered after my final match was how real it really felt. Sometimes such big moments, they feel unreal, but this one felt compeltely real. It was everything I hoped for, that dream come true, and I just soaked it in.

Mount Baker’s Natalie Smith

So much so that when she finally captured a state championship in February, the realization of what she’d just done felt completely authentic.

“One thing I remembered after my final match was how real it really felt,” Smith said. “Sometimes such big moments, they feel unreal, but this one felt compeltely real. It was everything I hoped for, that dream come true, and I just soaked it in.”

Smith flashed her potential as a freshman, displaying her combination of strength and athleticism, and each year she inched closer and closer to a state title shot. She claimed an eighth-place medal during her first trip to the Dome and left with a seventh-place medal her sophomore year before finishing second last season.

With one final shot to reach her state title goal, there was no denying Smith this season.

42 Number of wins recorded by Mount Baker senior Natalie Smith. She finished with a perfect record.

She rolled through her 125-pound state bracket, finishing with a second-round pin against Eastmont’s Morgan Jones. She fell to her knees after the win before celebrating with her coaches and teammates, ending her final year of wrestling with a 42-0 record.

“I just knew it was my last year, and I wanted to be at the top of the podium,” Smith said, “so I was going to do everything it took this year to get there.”

Smith, who also had regular season wins over 115-pound state title winner Brenda Reyna (Mount Vernon) and 120-pound, four-time state champ Jordyn Bartleson (Puyallup), has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Girls’ Wrestler of the Year for the second straight season. Mount Baker Clyde Blockley, who guided the Mountaineers to a second place state finish with 73 points, has been selected Coach of the Year.

Although Smith never won a title before this past winter, wrestling at the Tacoma Dome for three years prior had prepared her well.

In fact, the first day she was more worried about keeping her teammates mentally sharp than focusing on herself.

“I just felt really calm, understanding this season everything that I’ve done to get me in this position,” said Smith of her final state tournament.

Before the season, Smith said her older brother asked if she was going to undefeated.

Smith had this reponse: “I told him I step on the mat to win, and I’m not afraid to lose. Sometimes in the past that has been my biggest mistake. I’m afraid to lose instead of wrestling my match.”

Smith put everything together this season, and Blockley said it was the first time a Mount Baker girls’ wrestler has enjoyed an undefeated year.

“She had her way all year long,” Blockley said. “I think it was 35 pins or something like that. She was dominant.”

Smith’s wrestling career has come to a close, but she’s planning to run for the University of Portland next fall.

All-Whatcom County Players of the Year

The Bellingham Herald is proud to honor the student-athletes of the winter sports season for an 11th straight year. Here is a look back at the winners of the All-Whatcom County Girls’ Wrestler of the Year award:

2007-08: Ashlee Phy, Mount Baker

2008-09: Chloe Grafwallner, Mount Baker

2009-10: Katie Wiebe, Mount Baker

2010-11: Raney Lepper, Mount Baker

2011-12: Kara Ebergson, Squalicum

2012-13: Aysha Schwinden, Mount Baker

2013-14: Chloe Gardner, Nooksack Valley

2014-15: Natalie Smith, Mount Baker

2015-16: Natalie Smith, Mount Baker

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