06/22/07 — Aycock's Smith steps down

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Aycock's Smith steps down

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 22, 2007 1:48 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Kevin Smith made a difficult decision, but believes it's the right path for his future.

Smith stepped down as wrestling coach at Charles B. Aycock and will serve as an assistant principal next year at Spring Creek. The Wayne County Board of Education approved Smith's appointment Tuesday evening, which lit up message boards on the internet.

Smith has attempted to reach the wrestlers and inform them of his decision over the last couple of days.

"I would have loved to see my kids face to face to tell them the news," said Smith, who choked back tears. "I think they know how much they mean to me, and how tough this decision was without me saying it.

"My only regret is that the change occurred in the summer."

Smith's success came from a blueprint designed by the late Terry Pilkington, who resurrected the program before he passed away in 1998. Pilkington always followed the rules, held the wrestlers to high standards and never allowed anyone to make excuses for their shortcomings.

Pilkington's 1998 team seized the Class 3-A Big Eight Conference tournament championship, and set the standard for future squads. Smith carried the torch for nine seasons after Pilkington's death and guided Aycock to six regular-season conference titles.

"I think that I am most proud of the fact that (assistant coach) Mark (Bass) I were able to build a program that was based on doing things the right way," said Smith, who compiled a 146-19-1 record. "Running a program with class and integrity meant a lot to us nine years ago, and it still means just as much to us today."

The Golden Falcons never missed the N.C. High School Athletic Association dual-team playoffs during Smith's tenure and recorded top-eight finishes on six occasions. Aycock emerged the eastern regional runner-up in 2005 and 2006, and set a school record for victories (29) during the '06 campaign.

A six-time conference coach of the year, most recently in 2005, Smith has coached 65 state qualifiers and 20 state placers. He finally got his first state champion, 125-pounder Ngu Tran, this winter.

"The wins have been great and the accomplishments have been meaningful," said Smith. "Those things can never replace all of the great memories I share with those wrestlers, their parents and my coaching staff."

No successor has been named for Smith, who hopes the program keeps its continuity. He's confident that whatever decision is made will be in the best interest for the wrestlers.

Tedious days of practice, week-long camps and 14-hour Saturday tournaments will eventually fade from Smith's memory. However, he certainly won't forget the young men who left blood, sweat and tears on the mat every afternoon in the wrestling room.

"My wrestlers are, and always will be, like sons to me," said Smith. "I will continue to take great pride in watching all of them grow up to become not only good wrestlers, but also good role models and successful adults.

"Wrestling is in my blood, and I will never be able to totally stay away from it. But, my path has come to a fork in the road and wrestling is going to have to take a back seat to my new responsibilities from now on."