Sophie Smith has decided that an opportunity to attend and compete for one of the finest preparatory schools in the nation is too great to pass up. The Bismarck Century freshman will leave North Dakota for Pennsylvania next fall, where she will begin her sophomore season of high school at Wyoming Seminary College Preparatory School. Smith will join the first group of female wrestlers to compete for the school simply known as Sem. It was announced a few months back the school in Northeast Pennsylvania was adding a girls team to go with its historically dominant boys program. With respect to the growth of women’s wrestling, the move signified a big step forward in the commitment of strong wrestling communities adding girl’s programs. Wrestling fans found out quickly that Sem was all in for the new program when they hired USA Wrestling’s Assistant National Women’s Coach Erin Tomeo Vandiver as head coach. Vandiver has been a member of the USA Women’s coaching staff since 2009, and there are few coaches in America with her impressive background.
The path that ultimately led Smith to Sem began when a (USA Wrestling) Women’s director from another state mentioned to the Smith family that SEM was looking for girls like Sophie for their program.
“We had heard Sem was looking for girls with success in national wrestling events that that loved wrestling, were smart, dedicated, and well rounded,” stated Sophie’s father Bill Smith, who serves as the Women’s Director for North Dakota USA Wrestling.
From there, Sophie Smith filled out an “interested applicants” form, and after some conversations with coaches, was asked to formally apply.
The process for application to a school like SEM is no joke, and certainly like nothing we see in the state of North Dakota. The laundry list of things required for application included obvious things like stellar grades and transcripts, but also included essay submissions, teacher and coach recommendations, formal interview, and participation in non-sport extracurriculars. Sophie, who is a standout in the classroom at CHS and plays the violin, fit the bill and was accepted back in February. The final decision was made after Vandiver was hired and Sophie and her mother were able to make a visit to Sem last weekend.
“Overall, (the visit) was a great experience and I can’t wait to attend this fall,” Sophie noted.
Obviously, the visit to Sem opened Sophie’s eyes to a whole new world in comparison to what she was used to at North Dakota public schools.
“The people there were a lot different, but very nice,” Sophie stated. “Everyone was very friendly and made me feel welcome.”
One very obvious difference was the attire worn by students at SEM in comparison to what Sophie was used to.
“The students were dressed really nice and formal, and it made the school seem like a more important place to be going,” Sophie said.
Sophie has had a lot of success in the sport to this point wrestling mostly with the boys in both practice and competition, so joining an all-girls team at SEM should offer even more opportunities to flourish.
“I’m really looking forward to not having to be the only girl on the team with all boys,” Sophie said.
Throw in the fact that Sem has its own building dedicated to wrestling, with optimal training opportunities and some of the best coaches and female athletes in the nation, and the sky will be the limit.
“Sem’s commitment to the sport of wrestling is almost overwhelming,” Bill noted. “Plus, they are going to be closely tied to the New York Regional Training Center, which is two hours from campus and is the location of many of the top senior women in the nation.”
With all this now on the plate for Sophie, there is clearly a lot to get excited about. Off the mat, its the diversity of a school whose website boasts “over a hundred international enrollees from twenty different countries” that brings the most excitement.
“SEM is a really diverse school so I’m excited to meet the students from all over the world and see what their life is like,” Sophie noted.
The opportunity that Sophie has is not lost on the soon to be sophomore.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to attend the school and be a part of the program,” Sophie closed.