Ex-McCallie star Michael Hooker to wrestle for UTC

Ex-McCallie star Michael Hooker to wrestle for UTC

March 27th, 2013 by Ward Gossett in Sports - College

Michael Hooker

Photo by Danielle Moore

Michael Hooker's cell phone has the 865 (Knoxville) area code, and he has spent the last several months in Newport, R.I.

Now, though, he's coming home to Chattanooga, where he spent much of his time at McCallie School.

Hooker has committed to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling team after spending a semester at Navy's prep school.

"It's a good place to learn, very good on education," Hooker said. "I still want to be part of the military -- I may join the ROTC program at UTC -- but I only have a few more years to wrestle, and I want to focus on that right now."

A former McCallie state champion who spent his senior season at Father Ryan in Nashville to fulfill family obligations, Hooker is the second gem Mocs coach Heath Eslinger has picked up in the last 30 days. He recently signed North Carolina transfer Corey Mock, a two-time NCAA qualifier who is likely to slide into the 165-pound slot vacated by departing senior Josh Condon.

Hooker is a five-time Tennessee state finalist and a three-time state champion who went undefeated his junior and senior seasons.

"I think it's a good opportunity for him," McCallie coach Mike Newman said. "He's closer to his family and they'll be able to see him wrestle. The Naval Academy is a great opportunity, but you have to do what you think is best for your family. I'm happy about it because I'll be able to see him wrestle. I'm fired up about that."

Hooker, likely a 157-pounder, wrestled in a number of open tournaments, many of them against young collegians, and was 36-8 this past season.

"He had a good season this year and learned a lot," Newman said. "Guys like him, though, are what puts people in the seats. He's got a lot of [unique style] and he's strong, flexible and dangerous. He has the ability to throw, and he's so good on top.

"We may have had others that were stronger fundamentally, but with Michael it was all about getting the pin. He'd do something and you'd be hollering, 'No! No! No!' and then all of sudden you're hollering, 'Good job!'"

Hooker will be considered a true freshman when he enrolls at UTC.

"I'll have five years [to get four athletic seasons]. It's almost like this year never happened," he said. "I get to put that year [of college-type experience] under my belt basically for free."

Hooker, who holds the Tennessee high school record with 240 career wins, said both the initial recruiting performance by UTC's coaches and his familiarity with the area brought him back to town.

"They recruited me pretty hard originally," he said. "I was missing Chattanooga and McCallie. I talked with [former Moc] T.J. Holmes, who's a friend of mine, and he talked with Coach Eslinger.

"I had been looking at Kent State and some others that recruited me, but UTC will give me more time and more options, and I already had connections with the wrestling community in Chattanooga."