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UNC Pembroke coach PJ Smith retires after 25 years with program

Pembroke, NC - After 25 years of coaching the UNC Pembroke wrestling team, head coach PJ Smith (pictured) has decided to retire from coaching, but will stay on for the next year to transition the aquatics program, teach full-time, act as an advisor to the wrestling program and have other assigned departmental duties.

"I appreciate everything UNCP has done for me and I couldn't have been as successful anywhere else," Smith commented. "I have been impressed and very thankful for the commitment the University made to me and to the program, but it's time for a new beginning."

"Coach Smith has become an institution not only at UNCP, but with his peers on the National Collegiate Wrestling scene, the American Red Cross, and most importantly with kids in the Pembroke Community," stated Dan Kenney, UNCP's Director of Athletics.

"The impact he has had on children in our community thru the UNCP Swimming School and recreation programs alone is the hallmark of a great career. He will leave a large legacy next year when he retires. We respect his wishes and wish him nothing but the best in the next phase of his life.

"We do plan to lean on his expertise in the transition in finding a next coach and continuing the tradition of excellence our wrestling program has had over the last three decades. Finding someone to replace him will be a daunting task for our University."

Smith, who will retire from all his UNCP duties in 2007, leaves with a 299-192-4 overall record and an impressive 255-150-3 record while leading the Braves for the past 25 years. He was recently inducted in to the NCAA Division II Wrestling Hall of Fame prior to this season's NCAA Championship where he helped Willie Hilton earn All-American honors for the second time in his career. Smith will also be inducted into the North Carolina Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame later this year.

"This decision was not an easy one, but I believe it will allow the program to enter a new era of achievement and it will also bring a new attitude that will take the program to the next level," added Smith. "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, who recently established a scholarship in honor of his father, C.A. "Whitey" Smith that will help promote and perpetuate wrestling at UNCP, got his college-coaching career started in 1978 at Campbell University in North Carolina. While at Campbell he coached the Camels to a 44-42-1 record. In 1981 Smith accepted a position as Head Wrestling Coach and a faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

During his tenure at UNCP, Smith helped 33 wrestlers earn NCAA II All-American honors and four of those wrestlers made it to the NCAA II national finals. He has lead his team to two Top-10 finishes at the NCAA II National Tournament (1989, 2005). Smith also saw 13 of his student-athletes earn Academic All-American honors. He was named Region Coach of the Year on five different occasions (1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, and 2003) and coached 17 Regional individual champions. During his coaching career he has helped 15 wrestlers finish their careers with 100 or more wins.

Aside from Smith's impressive coaching resume, Smith has also been a tremendous leader and promoter of the sport in the state of North Carolina at both the high school and collegiate levels. He has influenced other area high schools and institutions of higher education to add wrestling to their athletic programs, while being recognized nationally for his efforts in 2003 when USA Wrestling named him FILA Junior/University Leader of the Year.

Smith has worked with the North Carolina Junior National team since 1978 and hosts the freestyle and greco-roman state championships as well as the training camp for the young Fargo bound athletes. He continued to help with the growth and development of wrestling on a national scale when he served on the NCAA Wrestling Committee from 1992-1998. In addition, he has served on the NC/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 "Man of the Year" for North Carolina.

On the mats, Smith finished his outstanding high school wrestling career in 1965 at Enloe High School in Raleigh, NC. In the fall of 1965 he enrolled at North Carolina State University and was a member of the wrestling team. Smith was a three-year starter for the Wolfpack at 134 pounds and graduated in 1970 with a bachelor's degree in Economics.

Upon leaving NC State he coached four seasons at the high school level at Jacksonville High School in Jacksonville, NC and Ravenscroft HS in Raleigh, NC. Smith then enrolled and completed graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1977 with a Masters of Science degree in Physical Education.

UNC Pembroke will begin its search for Smith's replacement immediately.

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