Although wrestling woes in the Interhigh continue, Moses Smith has rapidly developed into one of the top grapplers in the area.
Smith grew up in Portsmouth, Va., and moved to the District two years ago. He enrolled at Ballou High School, unaware the Interhigh has had problems putting together a wrestling league.
Smith, a 5-foot-4, 126-pounder who competes in the 132-pound weight class, learned to wrestle at the age of 10.
"I used to wrestle in the yard, back at Portsmouth," recalled Smith. "I just like wrestling; I used to wrestle guys in the street. You know how it is in the country. Back then, everybody said I looked like a wrestler."
Smith attended Manor High School in Portsmouth as a sophomore, but did not wrestle. He then moved to the District to live with his father and step-mother.
Smith was unaware of the Interhigh wrestling situation. This season marked the third straight year the Interhigh has not had a wrestling league. Ballou and Cardozo are the only Interhigh schools that have teams; both compete as independents.
"They are the only two schools in the league that have qualified wrestling coaches," said Interhigh Athletic Director Otto Jordan. "The problem doesn't stem from a lack of interest from students, it's just that there are no coaches."
Despite the lack of league competition, the unassuming Smith, Ballou's captain, has simply set out to do what he does best -- win.
Competing in his first organized wrestling campaign, Smith posted a 12-0 (seven pins, five decisions) regular-season record while his team went 7-5. At the St. Albans tournament, he captured a third place and the Knights finished 7-5 for the season).
"Pound for pound, he can wrestle with the best of them," said Ballou Coach William Lockridge. "He's beaten the best at Carroll, St. Anselms, Surrattsville and Model School."
After the St. Albans tournament last season, Smith competed against some of the area's best talent at the George Washington University open tournament, which offers college scouts the opportunity to view area prep stars.
Smith finished third at 132 and caught the attention of GW Coach Jim Rota.
"He's a very exceptional athlete," said Rota. "For his lack of experience in the sport, he handled himself well against some experienced wrestlers. His natural talents were a match for others with skills. I've been in touch with him, and I've contacted him to attend GW."
Last weekend in the St. Alban's tournament, Smith was unable to finish becasue of an injured ankle. He placed sixth. His overall record stands at 10-5, but the Knights' team record is 3-7.
Included in Smith's triumphs this year is a first-place finish at the St. Anselm's Christmas tournament.
"He is one exceptional and fine athlete," said Gonzaga Coach Ken Laureys, who wrestled for Rota at GW. "He has amazing quickness, and he is one of the finest, if not the fastest wrestler on his feet. He was very agile, and while he knew only a few moves really well, the moves he did know well, he performed extremely well; he relies on raw talent. He was a good sportsman and a good gentleman."
Smith has one request: "I have whipped a lot of wrestlers. But I wish that there were more teams in the Interhigh. That would give me more local competition; now I have to go out into Maryland to try and whip guys. But I love wrestling for Ballou."
"He has the talents and skills, and if he keeps his grades up he could be a major college wrestler," noted Lockridge.