Braves wrestling to start with new coach, attitude
By Ryan Kelly
Wrestling Coach P.J. Smith retired in March after 25 years as head coach of the wrestling team and leaves the Braves holding an impressive 255-150-3 record.
He is one of the most decorated head coaches of any sport in UNCP history with his enshrinement in the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame.
He is replaced this season by young and energetic Jamie Gibbs.
Changing of the guard
Jamie Gibbs comes to Pembroke after serving as Assistant Head Coach at Division III powerhouse Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
In four years at Coe, Gibbs’ teams were ranked every year in the top 20 in the NCAA Division III.
Eight of its wrestlers qualified for the nationals during the past two years.
“I want to create an environment where the student-athletes know, if they buy into it, they will get better everyday on the mats and in the classroom,” Gibbs said.
“We are excited to have him on board and look forward to him keeping our wrestling program among the best in the nation at the NCAA Division II level,” said UNCP Athletic Director Dan Kenney.
Three matches to look for
• Black and Gold Match - Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. - One of the fan-favorites, this annual exhibition pits members of the Braves against each other not only for friendly competition, but also to help establish rank among the team.
• Pembroke Classic - Nov. 11, 9 a.m. - UNCP is looking to build on one of its strongest and most competitive tournaments ever hosted from last year
• NCAA East Regional - Feb. 23-24, 2007, - Pembroke is the host site for the tournament which decides who moves on to the National Championships.
Before he retired, PJ Smith established a scholarship in honor of his father, C.A. “Whitey” Smith, to help promote the wrestling program at UNCP.
Former coach’s legacy
The endowment of this wrestling scholarship will help promote the character qualities C.A. Smith believed in, which are at the core of wrestling: hard work, self-discipline, pride, mental toughness and competitiveness.
Smith also gives his approval of the new head coach selection.
“Jamie comes from a top notch program, and I believe he will take our program to the next level,” Smith said. “Not only does he know wrestling, but he is an excellent recruiter as well.”
Smith is not leaving UNCP and will still be involved in the wrestling program, but in an advisory role.
Last season the wrestling team finished with a 4-10 record, their worst since 2000 when they were 4-12.