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Wrestling Changed Their Lives: John Smith audio documentary to be released in January

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OSU vs. Missouri: John Smith

Coach John Smith coaches from the sideline during Oklahoma State's wrestling dual with Missouri.

Ryan Warner grew up idolizing John Smith.

Warner, perhaps the biggest wrestling fan on Earth, is the host and producer of the Wrestling Changed My Life podcast.

He’s made over 180 episodes, interviewing the biggest names in wrestling, but Smith always eluded him.

So when the National Wrestling Hall of Fame approached Warner to make an audio documentary about one of its members, he asked for Smith and his brothers — Lee Roy and Pat.

“Next thing I know, we had interviews lined up,” Warner said. “I started research for the documentary in April and it’s been going on near every day since.”

The seven-part audio documentary is set to be released in January and covers the 17 years that span across the three brothers’ college careers.

Warner’s research was extensive. He studied the Smiths’ background and interviewed about 35 people for their insights from Iowan wrestler Randy Lewis to congressman Jim Jordan.

To Warner, the Smiths are right next to the Mannings and Williams as the most accomplished sports families. All three Smiths were Division I national champions. But it was important for Warner to not deify the brothers in his storytelling.

“Anytime you tell a story, you want to humanize the people because everyone thinks John Smith is this mythical figure,” Warner said. “I mean, it’s crazy that John Smith wins his sixth world title in a row, and two years later, Pat Smith becomes the first four-time national champ ever. Pretty crazy that it happened with one family.”

In reality, there were countless obstacles the Smith family had to overcome. Those obstacles fascinate Warner the most. John said Warner’s insight was uncomfortably impressive.

“I found him asking me questions, and I’m like, ‘How do you know this? Who told you this?’” Smith said. “I can only remember telling one or two people. He really digs deep with his information. There were some tough questions that I preferred not to answer, but I understand who he was and what he was doing and I respected it.”

In the end, Smith respected Warner’s love for the sport and eagerness to grow its popularity.

“It was a good experience and he brought up a lot of memories I hadn’t thought of in a long time,” Smith said. “Some of those memories I didn’t care to talk about but in some ways, I’m glad I got to do the interview with him and glad I shared those memories.”

Smith is excited to listen to the final product and Warner has promised to deliver his audience a newfound appreciation for Smith’s adversities and accomplishments.

sports.ed@ocolly.com