The bright future of Maryland wrestling was evident Sunday at the 2022 Edinboro Open.
While the attention may have been on the Terps that wrestled against Northwestern as they continue to build toward the Big Ten tournament, freshman Jaxon Smith shined in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.
Maryland had six total placers at the Edinboro Open — an open tournament for redshirts and wrestlers who are not in collegiate lineups — marking a successful trip for the program. But Smith was the standout of the group, winning the 197 championship.
Smith went 4-0 in the tournament that featured a finals win over Gabe Christenson by fall. The bout lasted eight seconds, but even with the dominant win, he’s not satisfied.
“I think I did well,” Smith said. “There are some highlights in the tournament, but definitely still gotta work to improve and get better.”
Smith said he chose to come to Maryland because the coaching staff’s belief in him matched his belief in himself.
For this season at 197, Smith is redshirting to get ready for next season as a part of the 2021 class ranked eighth in the country by InterMat.
[Despite flashes of opportunity, Maryland wrestling succumbed to poor execution]
The class features the likes of freshmen who have done well in their redshirt years, Ethen Miller, Braxton Brown and Adrien Cramer. They’re bringing some excitement to College Park as the Terps continue their rebuild and look to contend in the Big Ten.
“I think we have a little secret going on in Maryland that nobody quite knows about,” Smith said. “In one to two years, I think everybody in the Big Ten and the NCAA is going to find out about us.”
The two-time Georgia state champion has a 20 -6 record in his redshirt campaign, with some strong showings at tournaments.
Smith placed third in the 2021 Clarion Open at the beginning of the season and was a finalist in the Shorty Hitchcock Open. In January at the Southern Scuffle, he reached the quarterfinals in the 197 bracket.
He went up against quality competition in Chattanooga, including All-American Michael Beard.
Despite coming away with a 9-4 decision loss, Smith showed promise for the future with his performance against Beard.
Building on that performance to finish his season strong, Smith went 8-0 his last eight bouts, including winning the Mat Town Open II.
[Maryland wrestling trounced by Northwestern for eighth straight loss, 29-7]
“I think [Smith] is starting to realize that he’s really special and that he can really, do some good things,” coach Alex Clemsen said. “That’s a scary thing for most people around the country at that weight class that when he starts to really believe and recognize his full potential, he’s gonna be a handful.”
As he continues to make his transition to college wrestling, Smith said he thinks about those losses in what he can improve on going into next year despite having a 20-6 record.
In the eyes of Clemsen, he offers a lot as a wrestler that will make him fun to watch throughout his career, not only to the Maryland faithful but to the country as a household name.
Smith said he’s excited about next season, especially when he gets to make his dual home debut at the Xfinity Pavilion.
He’s set his goals to a high standard for both himself and his team.
“My goals are to be a four-time NCAA, All American and an NCAA champion,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to bring Maryland to the top five the Big Ten and into the [NCAA] rankings.”