Feb. 8, 2013
Attending the University of Missouri was not in senior Mike Larson's post high school graduation plans. His plan was to go to California State University - Bakersfield. Larson spent his redshirt freshman year and freshman year at Bakersfield. Then tragedy struck; Bakersfield decided to eliminate four of their intercollegiate sports, including men's and women's golf, tennis, and wrestling, effective with the 2010-2011 academic year unless they could raise a certain amount of money. They gave the option to all of the athletes that they could stay and wait out the uncertainty or they would be free to transfer. During his time at Bakersfield, Larson finished second as a redshirt freshman at the Pac-10 Championships. He qualified for Nationals and was named to the second team All-Academic squad.
Larson decided to transfer schools to continue his wrestling career. On his recruiting trip to the Mizzou, he felt a connection with the team and the coaching staff. In his eyes, the Tiger program offered the best opportunity to become a competitive wrestler.
"Once I took my visit and saw how adamant the coaches were about winning, I knew I couldn't pass up this opportunity. Everyone expected each other to win and wanted to be a part of the team. I wouldn't have become this good if I had never transferred, best decision I have ever made."
After Larson graduates this May, he has plans to pursue his dream of becoming a Navy SEAL. After reading books on Navy SEALs about two years ago, it really captured his interest, and he concluded that the life of a SEAL is for him.
Wrestling has played a vital part in Larson's decision. The wrestling regimen and schedule is so similar to the military style: the early mornings, the multiple workouts, coaches' telling and yelling instructions, and sacrificing a normal college life. Larson has recognized that a wrestling regimen is one of the best ways to prepare to become a SEAL. Having talked to former navy seals and navy officers, he found out that most Navy SEALs come from athletic backgrounds and many are former wrestlers.
Larson has been taught many lessons from wrestling that would be beneficial to his transitioning to becoming a Navy SEAL: dedication, sacrifice, and mental training. When he gets to that breaking point, where his mind is telling him that he cannot do it, he realized that he had to bury that voice deep down so as to conquer those mental and physical barriers. The skills learned in wrestling will transition into becoming a great Seal.
There is less than 45 days till the last day of Nationals and there is much that Mizzou's 184-pounder wants to accomplish before then, such as having great practices, pushing through and making the most of every opportunity. All this effort goes towards the ultimate goal of getting on the podium at Nationals. Thus far during his young life, Larson has dedicated everything to becoming an elite wrestler but he is not satisfied yet.
"I want to be remembered at Mizzou as the guy that never stopped wrestling. The one that laid it all out there gave it my all, won countless matches and pushed myself beyond barriers."
Being at Mizzou for three years, Larson has had a lot of favorite memories. One that stands out the most to him came at last year's Big 12 Championship as a team and as an individual. In March of last year, the Tigers won their first Big 12 title and it was a privilege to Larson to be a part of the team that accomplished that goal. Another moment that stands out to Larson is "making the deal with Coach Smith saying if we won the Big 12s, that I would be able to cut Coach Smith's hair into a Mohawk and actually being able to accomplish that deal."
Larson cannot remember a day without a practice or two in the past three years. There wasn't a day that passed, that he did not hang out with his friends and teammates. The team became brothers because of all the blood, sweat, and work they put in together thus creating a bond with the team.
Larson fans are sure wondering about his crazy Mohawk from last season. When asked about his trademark, Larson responded, "It started as just a funny haircut that Schavrien (Todd Schavrien, former teammate and alum, currently Mizzou's Director of Wrestling Operations) gave me. It began to stick as my trademark on the mat. I would say it has an intimidation effect."
The Mohawk will be coming back soon for conference and nationals.