COLUMBIA — Nathan McCormick, a133-pounder on the Missouri wrestling team, has what could be seen as an unusual hobby for a college athlete. He likes to do jigsaw puzzles.
The sophomore picked it up this year but says he has always had an interest in puzzles.
“Throughout my life I’ve gotten puzzles as gifts, and I’ve just stacked them in the corner of my closet,” McCormick said. “Then I just started one and found it took up a lot of my time and got interested in them and have just done them throughout the season.”
He's already completed quite a few. His average puzzle has about 5,000 pieces, and he does them by himself.
“Throughout the season, I’ve probably done about 15 different puzzles,” he said. “They’re all over the house right now. I haven’t taken them apart, so they’re just sitting there stacked up.”
McCormick prefers to do puzzles of paintings, particularly ones by Thomas Kinkade, a popular landscape artist. His favorite puzzle was a Christmas-themed Kinkade painting, which he finished right before Christmas.
It's not a hobby typically associated with wrestlers.
“It’s different,” he said. “I don’t see any of my teammates doing it.”
But McCormick doesn't always follow a typical path, a trait of his that isn't always easy to see.
He became involved in organized wrestling at a young age, following his two older brothers, former Tiger wrestlers Chris and Tyler McCormick,, into the sport. Missouri coach Brian Smith said the older McCormicks were often involved in “brotherly feuds” and that gave Nathan McCormick the toughness he needs to compete at the Division I level.
“He’s a really physical kid,” Smith said.
But being in the middle of his brothers' fights also steered McCormick in a direction that has influenced his career choices.
“I’ve always tried to be the mediator between the two of them,” said Nathan McCormick, who found he had a knack for settling arguments.
Like his brother Tyler McCormick, a two-time All-American who earned a master's degree in business administration from MU in 2009, Nathan McCormick is also a business major. He hopes to complete his undergraduate studies by next year and then attend graduate school.
Then, he said, he might consider going to law school.
“I really like business, but I don’t know if I want to go into business or what I’m considering in law right now, which is dispute resolution,” Nathan McCormick said.
It's hard to see his penchant for peacemaking when he's wrestling, though.
“When I’m in wrestling season or in wrestling practice, I’m probably a pretty intense person that people don’t want to be around,” Nathan McCormick said.
That’s hard to believe when he says it through a big smile.
“I’ve got a split personality,” he said. “When I’m not wrestling, I’m pretty laid back and fun to be around.”
His 19-13 record so far this season gives him a chance to top last season's 19-16 mark.
“Last year at this time, he was struggling,” Smith said.
Smith added that this year, McCormick will have more confidence heading into the postseason.
With the Big 12 Conference Tournament on March 5, McCormick will need to stay intense for the next two and a half weeks of practice. A win in the first round of the Big 12 meet would mean he would most likely be heading to the NCAA National Championships, to be held March 17 to 19 in Philadelphia.