COLUMBIA — Eighty-seven pounds. Roughly the weight of a middle-schooler.
That is also the potential difference between the smallest possible heavyweight wrestler and the largest. By NCAA rules, any man who weighs between 198 and 285 pounds falls into the category, and Missouri wrestler Mark Ellis has been working his way up through the weight class for the past five years, developing his mental game as he adds weight each year. As the Tigers' only senior heavyweight and a returning All-American, Ellis is a team leader, but he’s come a long way since beginning his wrestling career.
“He has physically and mentally grown up the most of any of my kids,” Missouri coach Brian Smith said.
Ellis came to Missouri in 2005 as a preferred walk-on for the football team, but he quickly realized that at 211 pounds he was too small to play. Instead of continuing with football, he joined the wrestling squad, where he faced both mental and physical challenges.
“He’s grown and matured so much physically, and then mentally he has just matured so much more than that,” Smith said. “I was teasing him the other day about the days years ago when he would lose his cool. He would storm out of the room if he lost, and I’d have to tell my assistant to go get him.”