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Smith, WIN’s Journalist of the Year, learned to express wrestling love and knowledge
Photo: Earl Smith is easily identified matside at national events when Intermat’s main content provider is wearing his Washington Nationals baseball cap. (Tony Rotundo photo)
By Mike Finn
Earl Smith is a former wrestler and coach but didn’t know he had another special talent when it came to sport until 2007, when he realized his voice or thoughts on the sport could also make an impact on wrestling.
“I was coaching at the time and life kind of got in the way and I had to step down from coaching,” said the native of Virginia, who lives outside Washington DC. “I just felt like I needed to do something to get my fix of wrestling and stay in it. So, I started a website called, ‘D-I CollegeWrestling.net.’”
In addition to writing about wrestling, he also started using his voice when he started a podcast at a time when that technology was not heard in every level of life and sports like it is now.
“I kind of created it without really any expectations and I started talking to coaches and people in the wrestling community,” he said. “That became a goal of mine, to either run that website and make money from it or it might lead to full-time employment in the wrestling community.”
And while Smith was never a great wrestler, his love of studying the sport played a big part in making a living as a wrestling journalist.
“I guess what I’ve learned from even the best coaches and wrestlers is that you can always learn and evolve,” he said, “I definitely wanted to continue to learn as much as I could.”
Fast forward to 2023 and Smith’s responsibilities on the journalistic side of wrestling have grown considerably, especially two years ago when he became the main content provider for Intermat.com.
Smith has been churning out a lot of great content ever since. For his efforts, Smith has been named the winner of WIN Magazine’s Journalist of the Year Award.
“Our WIN Magazine staff is excited about the selection of Earl Smith as the Journalist of the Year Award winner for 2023,” said WIN Publisher Bryan Van Kley. “When you read Earl’s articles on Intermat, you can tell he’s a professional writer who know and loves the sport. He can quickly get wrestling fans to the heart of the story so they feel up to speed. He’s a very worthy recipient of the award and does a great job promoting the sport.”
One of the first wrestling media people who influenced Smith was Jason Bryant, now a public-address announcer. Bryant is a two-time winner of WIN’s Journalist of the Year award and also a native of Virginia.
“Having known Earl since the late 90s, he’s always been a wealth of information and he’s also got a recall for places and stats that really compliments his work,” said Bryant.
“The guy is a self-starter and we’ve been able to see what he can do as someone who covers the sport and as someone who helps others develop in the sport as well. He’s really taken his role in this sport seriously. He is eager to improve on not just the type of content he develops, but also on the quality.
“Don’t be fooled by Earl’s dry wit and his soft-spoken tone, the guy has a voracious appetite to constantly improve his work.”
Another WIN Journalist of the Year Willie Saylor purchased Intermat in 2021 and soon hired Smith as his main writer.
“When I was thinking of taking over Intermat, there was only one option for me and that was Earl. I wouldn’t have done it without him,” Saylor said. “Quality, creative content, management skills and editorial judgment, he was a plug-and-play leader. And everyone in the wrestling community loves him.”
Becoming a journalist has simply made Smith realize he also had opinions on the sport.
“If you put your opinion out there and you’re able to surround it with facts and sound logic and reasoning, people can say they don’t agree with you but they may not say what you are saying is stupid,” Smith said. “I was always kind of the quiet kid in the back of the classroom who never really liked public speaking.”
Oddly, Smith was working as a 911 dispatcher when he became a wrestling podcaster.
“I thought it was crazy that I got paid to talk on the phone and then I started a podcast and did all this talking when it wasn’t necessarily in my character,” said Smith, who is sometimes known as much for his love of the Washington Nationals as for the sport of wrestling. Many recognize him since he wears his Major League team’s baseball hat at events.
“I had some friends say they didn’t like it, so I kind of dug in a little bit with it,” Smith joked. “Then before I knew it, I was kind of always wearing it. My wife has always known me to wear the hat.”
More importantly, Smith knows he will stay relevant as a wrestling journalist by continuing to know the sport well, in whatever communication medium that may be — whether written or on a podcast.
“There are people who want the videos, the graphics and whatever else about wrestling,” he said. “But there are people who just enjoy reading a good feature story about a wrestler. There are people who appreciate good journalism and coverage in different ways. We know that but we also want to evolve.”
All-Time WIN Journalists of the Year
|2023||Earl Smith, Intermat.com|
|2022||Jason Bryant, Mat Talk Online & Public Address|
|2021||Tony Rotundo, WrestlersareWarriors.com|
|2020||Sam Herring & Jude Swisher, Home Mat Advantage podcast|
|2019||Justin Hoch, Photographer/Fire Inside Project|
|2018||K.J. Pilcher, Cedar Rapids Gazette|
|2017||Andy Hamilton, Trackwrestling.com|
|2016||Christian Pyles & Willie Saylor, FloWrestling Radio Live|
|2015||John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com|
|2014||Shane Sparks, Big Ten Network & ESPN|
|2013||Bryce Miller, Des Moines Register|
|2012||Jeff Byers, Penn State Radio|
|2011||Andy Hamilton, Iowa City Press-Citizen|
|2010||Andrew Hipps, InterMat|
|2009||Tim Johnson, Big Ten Network and ESPN|
|2008||Kyle Klingman, On the Mat Radio|
|2007||Jason Bryant, InterMat|
|2006||Mike Chapman, WIN/Author|
|2005||Roger Moore, Stillwater News Press|
|2004||Craig Sesker, Omaha World Herald|
|2003||Rob Sherrill, WIN Magazine|
|2002||Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling|
|2001||Mike Nieto, Times of NW Indiana|
|2000||Dan Ventura, Boston Herald|
|1999||Jeff Byers, WRSC Radio|
|1998||Reid Handley, Chicago Tribune|
|1997||Dan McCool, Des Moines Register|
|1996||Matt Winkeljohn, Atlanta Journal-Constitution|
|1995||J.R. Ogden, Cedar Rapids Gazette|