Eisenhower’s Danny Smyk is ready to compete at the D-1 individual state finals

By: Timothy Pontzer | Shelby - Utica News | Published February 27, 2017

SHELBY TOWNSHIP — When asked about Danny Smyk, Utica Eisenhower wrestling coach David Drath chuckles, calling him one of the best leaders he’s ever had on a team, but also one of the quietest.

“Sometimes you walk into a room and look at everybody, and you see the one guy that nobody will think to mess with — that is Danny,” said Drath, who has been Ike’s head man since 1992. “He is amazing for us with how hard he works and wrestles. He usually doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to, because he leads everyone by example.”

A senior, Smyk will end his grappling career March 2-4 at The Palace of Auburn Hills, after qualifying for the individual state tournament at 171 pounds. He is thrilled to make it to that stage for the first time, but humbly remarked that it would not be possible without Drath and his staff.

“Making it to The Palace was my main goal this season,” Smyk said. “Another goal of mine would be to place. Coach Drath is the reason I am even going to The Palace. I owe my success to him and his great coaches; they have helped me become the wrestler I am today. I’m really excited to go and see how far I can make it.”

Drath believes Smyk has a great chance of placing, encouraging Smyk to enjoy the experience but not only be satisfied by getting there. The top eight finishers earn All-State honors.

“He was a regional qualifier last season and worked really hard but fell short of The Palace,” Drath said. “It came together this year to make it for his first time. I really like his possibilities there, because he will be wrestling guys that aren’t used to his style. I’ve been telling him, ‘Don’t sell yourself short; you should expect to be able to do just more than compete.’”

Smyk posted a 25-15 record despite having less than two weeks of preparation for the season. He served as a starting linebacker for Eisenhower’s football team, helping lead the Eagles to the state semifinals along with a Macomb Area Conference Red Division title, and their first district and regional championships since 2011.

While the deep postseason run and lingering football injuries hampered the lead-up to the wrestling season, Drath recalled how Smyk quickly transitioned from the gridiron to grappling.

“At the beginning of the season, he was very beat-up from football,” Drath said. “But Smyk is just flat-out tough and very competitive. It didn’t matter what we said to him, he wanted to go out there and compete — nobody was able to stop him from that.”

Both Drath and Smyk believe that the success with Ike’s linebacking corps directly translated to victories on the mat.

“Being a linebacker really helped with wrestling, and being a wrestler helped with football,” Smyk said. “Both sports have skills that you couldn’t learn without the other.”

“The sports they just work so well together,” Drath added. “I can’t understand why football players choose not to wrestle. We talk to all our guys about it every year. This season we had seven or eight (football) starters on our wrestling team. Smyk really complemented his repertoire in both by choosing to compete in both sports.”

Smyk has spent three years on the varsity wrestling squad, and unlike most of the competition he will face at The Palace, Drath believes he is getting better every bout.

“Danny is still improving; that is the really interesting thing about him,” Drath said. “The longer the season goes, the better he’s going to get. You can see that he is still developing as a wrestler, which is not a bad thing. Instead, it shows his work ethic and how he is never satisfied. A lot of guys don’t have that happening at this point in their career; they tend to plateau.”

In what will be his final time representing Ike, Smyk humbly wished there were more Eagles joining him.

“I would really like to say that I wish my four teammates that lost in the blood rounds of regionals could be there,” Smyk said. “Jack Morris, Noah Lumetta, Logan Cox and Lucas Peck all deserved it too.”