HANNIBAL — “Smile” was the word that always came up when the Missouri wrestling team talked about one of its members, Phillip Perry, who died in a car accident Tuesday.
"He was always a guy with a smile on his face," said MU sophomore wrestler Tyler Prazma. "He was a happy-go-lucky guy."
Prazma said he had known Perry since he was 8 years old. The two met at Purler Wrestling Academy in St. Louis.
MU wrestling head coach Brian Smith said he had known Perry for about six years. He first saw Perry at the Tigers' wrestling camp when Perry was in seventh grade.
“He wanted to be a Tiger, and he always made the team happy with his smile,” Smith said.
Perry was a Missouri State Champion as a member of the Hannibal Youth Wrestling Club, earning All-American Honors multiple times. Smith said Perry had a bright future.
While he competed with the Hannibal High School wrestling team, he received All-State honors three times and placed in the top three each season. Perry also earned All-American honors at the Coaches Junior National Tournament.
“It’s really tough for the team," Smith said. "Phillip loved his teammates.”
Junior wrestler Kyle Bradley also attended Purler Wrestling Academy with Perry and Prazma, and said Perry still smiled the same way he did when Bradley met him at the Academy as a 7-year-old. Bradley said Perry always made himself look stupid so he could make others laugh and said Perry was hardly ever in a bad mood.
Bradley said when he was at the academy, he and Perry went to a wrestling camp in which about 400 children participated. There were only five trophies awarded, and, after training intensely, the 7-year-olds were among the winners.
Bradley said they teared up.
“We were so determined to get the trophy,” he said.
Bradley said whenever he and Perry had a difficult time, they told each other to remember that moment.
He said that his family and Perry’s family are very close and that he was always treated as Perry's brother.
Smith, like Bradley, has known Perry's family for a long time. Perry’s older brother, Tyler, who graduated from MU last spring, was also a wrestler for the Tigers. Bradley said Perry was about to go to Las Vegas to help his brother prepare for a career with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Bradley said Perry's best friend was always his brother.
Perry was born June 30, 1992, in Hannibal to Devin and Jill Heimer Perry.
He is survived by his parents, Jill Perry and husband Steve Murphy and Devin Perry and wife Susan; a brother, Tyler Perry; grandparents, Juanita Heimer, Leon Perry and Judy Perry; a great-grandmother, Mildred Hayes; three step-brothers, Evan, Jackson and Harrison; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at First Presbyterian Church, 120 N. Sixth St. in Hannibal.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Phillip Perry Memorial, care of James O'Donnell Funeral Home, 302 S. Fifth St., Hannibal, MO, 63401.
The MU wrestling team served as honorary pallbearers Thursday evening, along with Perry's Hannibal Pirate Wrestling teammates.
Online condolences may be posted at www.jamesodonnellfuneralhome.com.