About this series
Coming up with a short list and then ranking the 10 greatest athletes in the history of each YAIAA high school was a daunting task. For sure, there is no scientific approach. But after two years of interviews, research and roundtable discussions, we are presenting as fair an attempt as possible to create an objective list on a decidedly subjective topic.
OUR CRITERIA: 1. The only accomplishments considered were those achieved while competing in high school varsity athletics. If an athlete earned a college scholarship, that was also factored in. 2. Accomplishments outside the setting of high school varsity sports and accomplishments after high school were not taken into account. 3. Athletes who attended more than one local high school were only evaluated at the school where they had the most varsity success. 4. Female athletes were rated by how they dominated their own sports not how they would fare going head-to-head against male athletes.

Your turn
If you d like to comment or offer a differing opinion on this list, we d love to hear from you. Each Sunday, we ll present your feedback on opinions on page 2 of the York Sunday News sports section - The Rundown. E-mail your thoughts to Sports Editor Chris Otto at cotto@ydr.com or mail them to: Greatest Athletes, c/o Chris Otto, 1891 Loucks Road, York 17408.

Read more
Check out the full series

The wrestling coach still talks to his father, even though he's not around.

Shaun Smith won a state wrestling title at Dover High, in part, because of his father. Same for those three national titles in college.

And Smith still coaches college wrestling - going on 15 years at his alma mater, Delaware Valley College - because he feels he needs to give back, to help others the way his father helped him.

"My whole life, he did everything for us," Smith said. "He was always there for our sports, always at my football games.

"Even as a little kid, my dad would be drawing the lines on the field, and I was always by his side."

It was in 1983, in Shaun Smith's senior year of high school, that his father, Lamar, died of a heart attack two days before the sectional wrestling tournament.

Shaun Smith, a 1983 Dover graduate, won district and state wrestling titles as a 138-pound senior.
Shaun Smith, a 1983 Dover graduate, won district and state wrestling titles as a 138-pound senior. (Submitted)
At the hospital that night he simply stared at the walls, stunned, devastated.

Said older brother, Keith Smith: "I got the phone call and (my mom and brother) sounded like they were laughing, they were crying that hard. I just rushed into the hospital and saw my mom's face . . . (Shaun) was in a room, just looking around, completely crushed."

How could the kid wrestle in two days? How could he deal with trying to win the one state title everyone thought he should have already have won?

But somehow, he dealt with death and overcame a badly injured knee to win districts and states.

"I don't want to say it helped me, but I focused more," Shaun Smith said. "Everything he taught me I thought of more. My father and wrestling, I couldn't think of anything else. It was just like tunnel vision for me.

"To me, my father was still there with me . . . Even to this day, there's times when I'm working and little things happen, and I always talk to my dad to get some help and something good will happen, and I think it's because of him."

Take the time his college team's best wrestler lost his mother and father within a year. The kid was struggling, especially away from wrestling. Smith had the experience and confidence to sit him down and encourage and teach him.

"He was kind of lashing out in different ways and doing some stupid things," Smith said. "I kind of told him, 'You've got to remember your father, he's still here with you and still looking down on you, and you need to do the right things."

It's one of the stories that keeps him going after 15 years.

"A lot of people put so much time into me, and I was taught so much from so many different people. It would be kind of stupid not to let other people know what I learned."

Sometimes it's those wrestlers, his wrestlers, who will ask about his own days on the mat.

Reluctantly, he reveals the highlights.

After winning a state title at Dover, Shaun Smith went on to earn three Division III national championships at Delaware Valley College. He’s been an
After winning a state title at Dover, Shaun Smith went on to earn three Division III national championships at Delaware Valley College. He's been an assistant coach there for 15 years. (Submitted)
How he won those Class AAA titles at 138 pounds; how he earned an 81-6 career mark and initially accepted a scholarship to Division I-A Lock Haven University.

If they ask enough, he might even tell them about being an all-league defensive back on the football team and a No. 1 singles player in tennis.

But mostly it's about wrestling. Older brother Keith won back-to-back state wrestling titles and showed him how to outwork everybody.

His brothers and mother looked after him, taking the place, in a way, of the most important person his life.

He carries that with him always.

"They all kind of kept me together (after my father died)," Shaun Smith said. "When that happened, I was lost."

And now he's found, in a way.

All these years later, he swears that the man is still guiding him on.

Reach Frank Bodani at 771-2104 or fbodani@ydr.com.