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'A hip heist saved my life': John Smith retells hunting accident

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John Smith

John Smith walked into the dimly lit, orange filled Oklahoma State wrestling room.

It’s a simple routine Smith has completed thousands of times, but that day was different.

Smith’s forehead and eyes were wrapped in gauze. The wrestlers present at this Sunday afternoon workout begin to freeze and turn their attention to their leader.

“I fell off a deer stand,” Smith said.

The group erupted in laughter.

Former Cowboy Ethan Kyle, who said he thinks the year was 2004, and his teammates immediately sensed a feeling of surprise.

“I just knew that this guy, who was basically Superman, went out and fell off a deer stand,” Kyle said. “Life is nuts, man. Anything can happen.”

The hunting scare occurred the day before — a Saturday before an OSU football game.

Smith, accompanied by his father Lee Roy and son, Joe, set out to hunt bucks on a Saturday morning.

As the morning excursion was finishing, John Smith rushed up a tree stand and was prepared to strap himself in.

But Smith forgot the harness on the ground.

“As I’m strapping the back of the stand, it all snapped right in two,” Smith said.

Now, Smith was quickly freefalling to the ground.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist used his decades worth of wrestling knowledge to execute a hip heist manuever.

“I was able to reach for a limb, and I crashed through the branches, spun a full 360 and landed flat on my back,” Smith said. “I never felt that kind of pain.”

Smith was so initially distraught that he finally gathered himself after about five minutes.

The only result was a trip to the hospital where he was prescribed medication for internal bleeding.

“That was an experience that lacked intelligence,” Smith said.

In practice, Kyle realized how Smith used his own clumsy mishap as a morale tool.

“Practice can suck sometimes,” Kyle said. “Smith just has a playful knack. He brought a lot of energy to the room and that prevented us from going nuts.”

Ever since that moment, Smith’s spirited personality has been appreciated.

“He’s so charming,” Kyle said. “In practice, pulled jedi mind tricks.”

sports.ed@ocolly.com