COLUMBIA — Missouri’s Marcus Hoehn wondered if he would ever wrestle the same, or if he would ever again.
At the end of last season, his sophomore year, he tore his right labrum, which adds stability and range of movement to the shoulder. It required surgery over the summer and doubt started to creep into Hoehn’s mind.
“I struggled with some things personally,” he said. “You can’t help but sometimes think of bad stuff.”
Junior Andrew Sherry, Hoehn’s roommate for the past three years, could see the injury affecting his personality. Hoehn is considered the team clown and is known for his quick wit, but that changed during his injury.
“He wasn’t as witty, he was more quiet and drawn back,” Sherry said.
Besides Sherry, Hoehn also looked to seniors Tyler McCormick and Justin Cole for help. McCormick underwent the same surgery before his junior year and returned as an All-American. Cole had two surgeries and Hoehn was inspired by seeing him practice hard every day.
“I figured if he could have two surgeries, I could have one and be all right,” Hoehn said.
With McCormick giving him advice on recovering from the injury and Sherry helping him stay positive, Hoehn came back better than before. Now he has emerged as a key component in MU’s lineup.
Several wrestlers had a chance to be the Tigers’ starter in Hoehn’s 141-poundweight classheading into the season, and it still was not settled at the National Duals on Jan. 12.
However, Hoehn followed the National Duals with two good matches and has taken control of the position.
Against Oklahoma State on Jan. 19in the Hearnes Center, he trailed No. 1 Nathan Morgan 7-2 before fighting back to lose8-7. Instead of a major decision for Oklahoma State, which would have given the Cowboys the win, it was only a decision.
“I told him after the match that he didn’t lose it, just that the time ran short,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said. “If that match goes another 30 seconds, he goes into overtime and wins.”
The Tigers won their next three matches on their way to a 16-16 tie.
“I think our whole team started to believe,” Smith said about Hoehn’s match. “I kept telling the team they have to start believing in their conditioning.”
Hoehn had another strong showing on Jan. 28when the Tigers hostedCornell.
The Tigers were down 7-0 when Hoehn stepped onto the mat for his dual, which he controlled early and won 9-3. Missouri eventually won the meet 21-13.
Smith said he always knew that Hoehn was capable of helping the team in this way on a consistent basis, but he first had to make some changes in the way he approached wrestling.
Smith describes Hoehn as a “kid who can put on weight,” which contributed to nagging injuries and inconsistent wrestling.
Over the summer Hoehnfocused on changing his diet and becoming more focused. He used to go out the day after a match and eat like a NFL lineman because he knew there was a whole week to work off the extra pounds.
That no longer happens.
“If I’m not wrestling the best I can, then I’m not giving everybody else on the team my best performance, which isn’t good,” Hoehn said.
Thechange has helped. Now Smith is complimenting Hoehn on his body shape.
Hoehn’s journey from injury and doubtto consistent contributor is complete, and his presence on the team is not restricted to the mat. He has embraced his role as the team clown, complete with a humorous rap CD that he sometimes plays before practice.
“He should be a character in a movie,” Sherry said. “When his humor returned is when I saw that he had turned the corner, so to speak.”
Hoehn flashes a wide smile and lets out a chuckle when thinking about his antics, which include making a t-shirt with the face of former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren on it and the word ‘Funky’ underneath.
“I can be serious when I need to be, but I think it helps release some of the stress if you can laugh every now and then,” Hoehn said. “I just try to keep things light.”