MOUNT ZION — Kooper Loehr’s senior season was the stuff of legend around central Illinois wrestling circles.
Loehr, a Mount Zion junior, pieced together a 42-match winning streak to begin his season after not participating in the sport during his sophomore year to focus on his other favorite sport, baseball.
Loehr finished fourth in the 120-pound weight class at the Class 2A state tournament and notched a 43-2 record for the season. His performance made him the Herald & Review Area Wrestler of the Year.
Loehr would never have expected to go on the run he did when the season began.
“Overall I thought it was a good season and it was good to come back and get back into the flow of things, but it was rough at the beginning,” he said. “I was a little rusty at the beginning but I got a lot better during the season. I was getting used to the movements and the positions. I had to learn the positions all over again and learn how to scramble.”
Even so, Steve Owens, Loehr’s coach at Mount Zion, was impressed with how prepared Loehr was when he returned.
“Kooper came back this year after sitting out and picked up like he never missed. He picked up where he left off and had an outstanding season,” he said.
While Loehr physically wasn’t at wrestling practice during his sophomore year, he was there mentally, watching wrestling matches online.
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“I know what Kooper does in the off-season is that he will sit and watch YouTube videos of matches," Owens said. "He picks up stuff from watching the college level and above and brings that stuff back to the room and then tries it out and figures it out
“I have a feeling he did a lot of that in his time off and came back like he didn’t miss a beat. He came back just as strong, if not better than he was before.”
Loehr agreed that his video training helped him.
“Twitter will post videos and matches of the week so I will watch those all the time," Loehr said. "It kept my mind in the flow of things throughout the year and it was easier to transition (into the season)."
Even with Loehr's success on the mat this season, he wouldn’t go back and wrestle during his sophomore year, if given the chance.
“I would have probably taken a year off again. It made me hungrier this year to get back to state and wrestle better," he said. "I think I needed that year off. It helped me a lot to learn about myself."
Still, Loehr isn't wavering on wrestling again. He's ready to chase a state title as a senior.
“I think I will have the same mentality to come back and work my hardest and try to put in the most work I can," Loehr said. “It will be the hard work, plus a little luck, that I hope will pay off at state next year.”
Owens will also depend on Loehr in leading the Braves’ team.
“The thing that stuck out the most for me for Kooper is not necessarily his ability to wrestle, he is a very valuable asset to the team," Owens said. “He’s right there mat-side helping coach, helping do whatever, telling the kids, ‘You need to do this, you need to do that’ at practices. He’s an all-around great athlete, great person, great kid to have in the room. That’s what I admire most about him.”
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