Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Grappling with Fear Liddell Pins Anxiety, Comes Up Big on Mat for Mizzou

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Grappling with Fear Liddell Pins Anxiety, Comes Up Big on Mat for Mizzou

Article excerpt

At times, college freshmen can be wide-eyed, awestruck, maybe a bit clueless. It takes an extraordinarily honest one to admit it - especially to the man who is paying for his college education.

Kenny Liddell is that kind of guy.

After Liddell's first meeting with the wrestling team at the University of Missouri, he was walking with coach Wes Roper. Liddell was a freshman who was not heavily recruited out of high school, and Roper wasn't sure what to expect.

Liddell turned to Roper and said, "Coach, I never thought I'd wrestle again after high school."

Roper was a little shocked.

"I remember shaking my head thinking, `What did I get myself into?' " Roper said.

As it turned out, Roper managed to find a future All-American and a wrestler who has an excellent chance at an NCAA title this year. Liddell and the Tigers will wrestle the University of Wyoming at Francis Howell High School at 7 tonight.

One reason Liddell didn't think he would wrestle again after his career at McCluer North High was his fear of the sport. Before each match, Liddell's mouth gets dry, he worries about getting too tired to wrestle, and then he tries to jog off the anxiety.

"I walk around thinking, `I'm going to lose this one, he's bigger than me,' " Liddell said. "I think I'm the only person who thinks I'm going to lose before I go out there."

Liddell is quick to point out that he doesn't get nervous - he gets scared. "(I) always have to pray," he said. "You never know what's going to happen - you could die, break your neck . . ."

Once the match starts, Liddell spends the first period worrying about running out of energy. In the second period he worries about getting torn to shreds. But in the third period Liddell focuses on putting away his opponent. He's succeeded, with a 20-2 record this season. He's ranked fourth in the country at 142 pounds.

Liddell's start as a wrestler at McCluer North was as questionable as his Mizzou beginning. …

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