Rio Olympics: U.S. Olympian Robby Smith chases wrestling glory

All wrestler Robby Smith needed was a chance. Now, his eyes are set on the biggest goal he could achieve — a gold medal.

The top Greco-Roman heavyweight on Team USA will be making his first Olympic appearance, participating in the wrestling events from Aug. 14 to 21 in Rio.

The 29-year-old earned accolades as a California state champion at San Ramon Valley High School before enrolling at Northern Michigan University. This led him to the New York Athletic Club on Central Park South nine years ago. From there, Smith was granted a sponsorship and the opportunity he needed to begin his journey on the path to become an Olympian, a dream the began as a 9-year-old boy watching the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“It takes a village to give you that. It’s not just one person,” Smith said. “I’m blessed to have a great village around me and people who really want me to go.”

Despite returning to the Big Apple once a year, the bushy-bearded Smith is on a mission to give back to the club and community that provided him with so much through the tough times, injuries, and the most impactful move of his career — moving up in weight classes in 2013. The only way to accomplish this is bringing home a gold medal, Smith said.

Now, he will have a chance to bring home the gold while representing the country he loves on the biggest stage in the world.

“I’m going to give it 100% of me and wrestle to the best of my ability to have that around my neck and watch the flag raised during the national anthem,” Smith said. “That’s the pinnacle of everything.”

After falling short at 120 kg in the U.S. Olympic Team Wrestling Trials in 2012, Smith sought redemption and swept the best-of-three series against Adam Coon in the Greco-Roman 130 kg finals during the trials in April. When the clock hit zero, the referee raised Smith’s arm to declare him the winner. Smith dropped to his knees, pointing to the sky. Realizing he was going to Rio, Smith embraced his father, Rob, with a hug, the best moment of his career to date.

“I am just truly blessed to do what I love, and be able to have a lifelong dream come true,” said Smith, who also trains at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center. “I do it for myself, but also for everybody else who has always supported me, because they’ve put the time and minutes into it. I owe them everything in my life. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at.”