Student, wrestler balances college and career
The world of professional wrestling is full of colorful personalities larger than life, feuds, drama and physicality. It is an industry with a worldwide following that straddles the categories of entertainment and sport. University of Southern Mississippi student Ben Smith is part of this adrenaline-charged industry.
“Professional wrestling is something that you either understand or you don’t,” said Smith. “If you get it, no explanation is needed. If you don’t get it, no explanation will ever be enough.”
Smith works professionally with Wildkat Sports, a pro wrestling company, based out of New Orleans, as well as Hattiesburg’sPowerSlam Productions. Climbing up in the industry takes a lot of dedication, something Smith knows well. He is not only a pro wrestler but is also a college student.
Smith is a senior English licensure major at USM. He has been wrestling his entire college career and joined a company when he was 18 years old.
“I wanted to get involved in wrestling for as far back as I can remember and always told myself that as soon as I am old enough I would find a way in,” Smith said. “To my surprise, there was a wrestling company just ten miles down the road from where I lived.”
Smith faces the daily struggle of balancing his wrestling career with maintaining his studies. He juggles countless hours in the gym, commuting to shows and keeping good grades in classes.
“I have managed to balance the two to a degree, but it is not easy. I have no social life,” Smith said.
When the public thinks of the wrestling industry, they may not necessarily connect a college degree with the physical drama playing out in the ring. This is a misconception, according to Wes Adams, one of Smith’s mentors and fellow wrestlers.
Adams, a 2002 Southern Miss graduate, owns the Hattiesburg wrestling company PowerSlam Productions and is also connected with WildKat Sports.
“Higher up in the industry, education is important,” Adams said. “A lot of elite wrestlers have a college degree or are working on one. People don’t want to hire someone without education.”
Adams, who majored in hospitality management, said many wrestlers use the knowledge they gained in college, such as from business classes, to further their wrestling careers.
Smith had longevity and the future on his mind when he decided to pursue a degree.
“I went to college because I know that wrestling won’t last forever, and I want to go into teaching because it is something I always thought I could do well in and enjoy,” Smith said.
Fellow students and professors have interesting reactions when they find out Smith is a pro wrestler. Many want to know more about this other side of his life.
Melanie Boyd, a fellow student and friend, couldn’t believe a student could take on so much.
“The day I met Ben he told me he was a professional wrestler, and I was stunned that an undergrad student that was so young could take on the responsibility of being a professional wrestler as well,” Boyd said.
Adams, who has 13 years of experience in the industry, is reminded of himself when he thinks of Smith. Adams was also pursuing wrestling while he was at Southern Miss.
“Ben pushes himself,” Adams said. “I was doing what he was doing. It can be done with effective use of your time and making the most of the least.”
Smith’s ultimate career goal is to make it with the WWE. Adams believes Smith has what it takes to make it in the competitive world of professional wrestling.
“He makes wrestling happen and is moving up in the world,” Adams said. “He really sees wrestling for what it is and what it’s not. He has the potential to make it to the top, and he’s going to. He’s willing to learn and willing to listen.”