After 25 years at the helm of UNC Pembroke’s wrestling program, head coach P.J. Smith will retire.
“I appreciate everything UNCP has done for me, and I couldn’t have been as successful anywhere else,” Smith said. “I am impressed and very thankful for the commitment the University made to me and to the program, but it’s time for a new beginning.”
Athletic Director Dan Kenney praised Smith for his work for the University, its community and the sport of wrestling.
“Coach Smith is an institution not only at UNCP, but on the national collegiate wrestling scene, the American Red Cross and, most importantly, with kids in the Pembroke community,” said Athletic Director Dan Kenney. “The impact he has had on the young people in our community through the swimming and recreation programs alone is the hallmark of a great career,” Kenney said.
He leaves with a 255-150-3 record at UNCP. Last spring, Smith was inducted in to the NCAA Wrestling Hall of Fame, and he will be inducted into the North Carolina Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Smith will remain at the University next year working with the aquatics program, teaching full-time and advising the wrestling program.
“Even though I won’t be in the mat room everyday, I still intend to support the program now and in the future, especially with my father’s scholarship,” Smith said.
Smith recently established an endowed scholarship in honor of his father, C.A. “Whitey” Smith that will promote wrestling.
During his tenure at UNCP, he coached 33 All-Americans. He led his team to two top-10 finishes at the NCAA Division II national tournament in 1989 and 2005. Smith also coached 13 academic All-Americans.
Smith was named region Coach of the Year on five different occasions from 1991-94 and again in 2003. During his coaching career, 15 wrestlers finished with 100 or more wins.
A promoter of the sport in the state at both the high school and collegiate levels, he persuaded area high schools and colleges to add wrestling programs. He was recognized in 2003 when USA Wrestling named him FILA Leader of the Year.
Smith has worked with the North Carolina Junior National team since 1978 and hosted the freestyle and Greco-Roman state championships as well as the training camp. He served on the NCAA Wrestling Committee from 1992-1998. In addition, he has served on the N.C./USA Wrestling Board of Directors since 1981 serving in many capacities ranging from coaching coordinator to president of the board. He was also recognized in 1991 as wrestling’s “Man of the Year” for North Carolina.
On the mats, Smith wrestled at Enloe High School in Raleigh, N.C., and at North Carolina State University. He was a three-year starter for the Wolfpack at 134 pounds and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He completed a Master of Science degree in physical education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.