Memphis East High School has long been known for its outstanding athletic programs. Almost two years go, the linebacker coach of the football team, Charles Smith, approached his administrators with an opportunity to provide the students with an option to participate in a different sport — wrestling.
Though the idea was well receive by administrators, it was too late in the year for the school to start a new wrestling program. Administrators from Memphis East contacted Kingsbury High School about the possibility to form a co-opt team. The schools agreed to allow Smith and his wrestlers to participate with the established Kingsbury program.
With Kingsbury, Memphis East was moderately successful.
“Initially, I thought it would be good for my football players to wrestle,” Smith said. “I ended up getting a lot of interest from the kids around the school.”
The school was represented by Jimtarius Hampton at the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) Individual State Tournament for the 2012-2013 season. This year the team ventured off on their own, grateful of the opportunity the head coach of the Kingsbury team, Ronnie Landau afforded them.
“Coach Landau is a great guy,” Smith said. “I learned a lot from Coach Landau.”
Prior to their time with Kingsbury, Smith had no previous experience coaching wrestling. He wrestled at Fort Lauderdale High School for two years; qualifying each year and placing third his senior year at the Florida state tournament in 1993. Establishing a new program nearly 20 years later, Smith eagerly anticipated the opportunity to implement his coaching philosophy and style with the Memphis East team.
With several programs throughout the Mid-South shutting down, the establishment of new programs garner a lot of attention.
Starting from scratch, however, also meant overcoming certain obstacles and a lot of hard work for the new program. Smith found help for the team from churches and individuals throughout the community. White Station High School, recently shutting down its program, provided the team with a mat. Christ United Methodist Church donated money to the team that helped pay for uniforms and equipment for the team.
Though equipment and funds provided by the community played a pivotal part of their success, ultimately, the passion of Smith and the work his wrestlers put into the program allowed them to flourish. “The one thing I will not tolerate is a lackluster performance,” Smith said. “I can say that everyone of my guys showed up and competed. That’s one thing that I’m proud of this year. We didn’t walk in saying we were going to lose. We walked up with intentions to win.”
Without a full 14-man roster, Smith and the Memphis East team placed fourth in their district and was represented by two wrestlers, at the 2013-2014 TSSAA Individual State Tournament in Franklin, Tenn.
Sophomore, Irana Moore qualified by placing second at the TSSAA Region 8 Tournament in the 195-pound weight class. Senior Radarrious Anderson qualified by placing third in the 285-pound weight class.
Overall, Region 8 did not fare well at the TSSAA Individual State Tournament. None of the 56 qualifiers placed at the tournament, including Anderson and Moore — something Smith hopes changes soon.
“We need to get something more here so our region can be competitive,” he said. “It’s not a school thing now. We need to find out what we can do in this area for all the wrestlers to get better.”
Though he wishes the team, Moore and Anderson would have had achieved more this season, he is still proud of their successes this season. He equates the individual successes of Anderson and Moore to the wrestlers having more than athletic prowess.
“No one is going to outwork him,” Smith said about Moore. “He pays attention to details and listens. He is a hard worker. Anderson is tough and has the knowledge when it comes to wrestling. His dad was a wrestler and his brother wrestled at MTSU.”
Smith believes that this year was a big step towards his goals for the team and has high hopes for the future of his program and Region 8.
“Many wrestlers compete for years without ever reaching the state level and for East to have two guys do that in the first year of having a program is amazing,” Longo said. “Smith has done a tremendous job this season. Not only has he built a program from the ground up — they are successful. I truly believe Memphis East is on the rise.”
With the amount of interest students have shown, Smith does not believe it will be an issue to find athletes will to be competitive. His primary goal for his team is for the team to be competitors.
a“I have a competitive spirit,” Smith said. “As long as I’ve got a team that wants to compete that’ll motivate me to go on the mat with them.”
Through the sacrifices his wrestlers have made and the passion he has for the program, Smith believes that his team is more than capable of continuing the winning traditions of Memphis East High School.