Media availability from John Smith and Dave Smith
Oklahoma State Wrestling Coach JohnSmith and director of cross-country skiing and athletics DavidSmith met with members of the media following Monday night’s car crash involving a wrestler AJ Ferrari and cross-country skiers Isai Rodriguez.
For the health of the athletes:
DavidSmith: “From what I saw with Isai last night in the hospital, he seemed in good spirits and feeling pretty good. Luckily it didn’t seem like anything really serious and I think he’s about to be released from a couple of tests and had to keep him overnight. From what I’ve seen, he’ll come out of this situation just fine.
JohnSmith: “For AJ, I went to the crime scene and I couldn’t reach him, so I couldn’t see him. He was then flown by helicopter to the Oklahoma City hospital. We went there and due to protocols I never did see him. I waited for his father who was with him all the time and passed the news to me. They scanned his body and did everything they could to check him out fairly quickly and I think it was at the crime scene. He was obviously a little upset after the fall. When he came to the hospital and examined him they came back and said there were no broken bones but they kept him overnight for other reasons.
At the scene of the accident:
JS: “There were a lot of police officers and a lot of ambulances that were there and a helicopter came in. It wasn’t a good scene. My first thought was that it was a head on collision and I got a call from Coach (Kasey) Dunn who was a little shaken I could barely hear him but he let me know enough that AJ was in a car accident on Highway 33 truck and about eight minutes later I was where the wreck was. I couldn’t see Coach Dunn. A lot of staff came and we just sat there while he was flown to Oklahoma City.
On AJ’s recovery:
JS: “I didn’t see the vehicle until late at night. You’re lucky. There was definitely someone looking out for these two and the others involved in the wreck. They were definitely lucky to escape with minor injuries. I think , AJ will take a little longer but it felt bad not being able to reach him. I’m just glad his dad reached him. It was a sight you don’t want to see again.”
on Kasey Dunn Help for Ferrari at the scene of the accident:
JS: “I spoke to him a couple of times and he spoke to my assistant coach. Zack Esposito, a few times. I don’t know the full story of how he ended up there. I think obviously he came back from Tulsa or maybe went to Tulsa, I don’t know. He was doing his civic duty to help someone. Of course he called me, I followed him and someone else who pulled AJ out of the car and helped AJ out and you could hear it in his voice like anyone would, there was something awful about it. If another coach tells you that and you know them well, only think about the worst and hope and pray for the best. He told me a big man showed up and helped him figure out how to get (AJ) out and they got him out and then all of a sudden this guy was gone. I don’t know what to think of it, but it’s a story we can all be grateful for. I’m sure glad he was there. I don’t know how many people would go to a burning car and pull her out, but I’m sure Coach Dunn was there.”
About the cause of the accident:
JS: “We weren’t overly concerned about what happened in the accident, we wanted to make sure everyone involved was taken care of and thank God it was quick. It was kind of amazing for me to leave my house about eight minutes later where it happened… The number of people that were there and what was prepared and what was done so quickly was impressive… Doing everything to take care of the Taking care of injured people was pretty impressive what was going on and that’s more worrying.”
For community support:
JS: “It’s nice, especially when you don’t know anything … People reaching out to you and asking how they can help, it’s just a good feeling that you have that. As competitive as we are, sometimes we don’t like each other, especially during competition… It’s good to see that people are reaching out to you with whatever we need… It’s a wonderful community to be in and I’m glad I’ve been a part of it for a long time.”
DS: “I’ve been contacted by dozens and dozens of coaches across the country. Unfortunately some of our fellow coaches have been through this quite recently and have lost some young men to car accidents in the past few weeks so it’s been kind of cycling through our sport a bit. These things seem to come in waves, and I think since it’s happened a couple of times in the last few weeks, it felt like another event, so there was an immediate flood of people supporting me… It felt like just a week before, I reached out to my fellow coaches and said, “Hey, our hearts are broken for you and your fans and your young men and women and their families.” And I got the same thing back: guys you’re up against and who can’t take it all for years and things like this happen and you realize how close you are and how similarly we do the same thing.”
on how DavidSmith experienced accident:
DS: “Our athletic trainer called and asked if I had spoken to Isai recently and asked if I heard about the accident. I don’t like getting phone calls at home at night because there’s never good news, so I immediately sat down and asked what happened. She was very careful about what she told me, but the information she had was strict. It was immediately very emotional and it didn’t come out that way, but I was like, ‘What’s the worst-case scenario, based on what she said,’ and it wasn’t good. Trying to reach his parents, trying to finding him, so the next hour was tough.
on JohnSmith‘s communication with AJ’s father:
JS: “I didn’t see him very often. I called his father and told him what had happened; told him I was going there. He didn’t hesitate, he said, ‘We’ll be right there.’ Of course I was on the west side of the accident towards Perkins. Knowing his father, he went right around that barricade and straight to – you know, didn’t stop, didn’t hesitate – he went to his son. I’m glad I was there to tell them who that was. I wasn’t able to communicate with him until late in the evening when he came out of AJ’s room and told us where he was. I’ve only seen him once and spoken to him once.”
On the Oklahoma State Wrestling Team‘s response:
JS: “Now for our team, they are in the training room right now getting ready for practice. Like I said, when we had good news – we didn’t know anything until AJ’s dad came out and said, ‘It’s looking good, no broken bones.’ When he broke the news, it kind of reassured everyone that in time AJ would be fine. I think you just think about your normal day, “Okay, I’m going back to work. I have practice in three.’ The good news of what we originally thought when I went to the crime scene – very different. Really low to really high. That was the experience.”
to conversations JohnSmith and DavidSmith discuss with their teams being careful in all aspects of life:
JS: “Seat belts save lives. Both athletes were buckled up. It was a bad accident for AJ and Isai if you look at the car.”
DS: “I think for any coach, parent or anyone who works with people of that age – that’s what keeps me up every night as a coach. That call at night. I’ve been through it in my career where I’ve lost children to car accidents. It happened three times. It’s not getting any easier, honestly it’s getting harder. We talk about this all the time: don’t take anything for granted. It’s so fast. Once when you’re looking down at your radio or your cell phone or whatever – so many ways things can go wrong and in a car it’s the easiest place to have a big problem. We also have kids who walk and run on the street, and we tell them, “Keep on the sidewalk. Don’t go on the street.” And often they say, “Yes, Coach, whatever.” We’ve had kids running down the street before. We’re going to reiterate that, too, and say, “Look, we got through this again, miraculously, without losing anyone or seriously injuring anyone.” It’s probably a game of centimeters. A few more inches the other way in this wreck and it could have been a whole different story.
About certain student-athletes who acted as leaders in support:
DS: “In my team, as I said, we had several attempts to get to the hospital and get there when they found out where he was. I made the mistake of saying to people, ‘Hey, we found him. Here he is .’ Immediately a couple of the guys tried to come and we had to send a message: ‘Hey, don’t come to the hospital. They get frustrated with us.” Shea Foster, who is new to our team but has become a leader since the day he came here, there was no denying it. He came in and stayed with Jesse. Isai finally kicked us out around 2pm and said, ‘Hey, I need to get some sleep.’ So we left at 2am [Shea] wanted to spend the night with [Isai]. Isai said, “No one. You have to go. I need some sleep.”
JS: “For us, that was it DatonFix who called me and said, ‘What do you want me to put out? Do you want me to do anything?’ I said, ‘At this point: nothing until we find out more.’ When we found out, we shared it with the team. It kind of put everyone at ease knowing it wasn’t life threatening. It was good news when we heard that.”
About AJ and Isai’s friendship:
JS: “They are around each other all the time. They spend a lot of time together and I think most of it is competitive. They work out, they don’t hang out, they do the wrong things and they’re on the bars, but exercise and weightlifting, running, whatever it is. They found a connection because they both want to be the best in their sport. I think that’s the connection. It’s nothing that’s fake. It’s something that’s very real and both of them are pretty close.”
DS: “I would say they both love OSU and OSU Athletics as a whole. You have a national wrestler champion his size who shows up at a cross country meet and is there to the end jumping up and down crazy then hugging his buddy In the end I congratulate the women’s team on the win and the real one Involved in supporting and caring for OSU Athletics AJ Ferrari. This boy is great with his temper and drive. His greatest strength may sometimes be his greatest weakness, but it’s still his greatest strength. I think Isai Rodriguez is the same. That passion and joy for life and everything they do and everything OSU, those are the things these guys have in common. Most people don’t get it. They look at it and think, ‘that’s weird,’ but these guys see a kindred spirit.”