It would have been hard for a newcomer to Ozark’s wrestling room this season to know one of the Tigers’ most passionate and hardest working grapplers was alone in a corner riding a stationary bike.
Clayton Moison wasn’t able to get on the mat for nearly all of the first two months of practices. The state-qualifier from a year ago was able to only go through aerobic activities after receiving a diagnosis last summer he suffers from scoliosis.
As his teammates rolled on the mat, Moison was learning of his condition and learning to live with the constant pain in his back. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine often associated with a growth spurt. It affects about 2-3 percent of the population.
Moison remained optimistic his career was not over.
“I knew I was going to wrestle, even though a lot of my friends were telling me I couldn’t and shouldn’t,” he said. “Once I found out from my doctor I can’t make it worse, that I’m just going to have the pain, I knew I was going to fight through it. To not wrestle my senior season would have been heartbreaking. I would have been really upset because I’ve been wrestling my entire life.”
Moison made a heartwarming return just before the start of the new year. He debuted at the Diamond State Duals on Dec. 30 and the 152-pounder went 4-0 as Ozark won the team title.
Moison recorded three pins in the first period and one in the second period.
“I’ve been recovering for a while and trying to get my body to feel right,” he said. “I finally got out there and performed and was proud of myself for how I did. It felt good to be back on the mat.”
“Obviously, we want him to be healthy and take care of himself,” Tigers coach Tod Sundlie said. “He has a bright future and back issues are tough to overcome the rest of your life. We don’t want him to have anything that’s going to hurt him in the future. He’s willing to give it a go and his parents and I have been working together to help him. We’re glad to see him on the mat. We wanted him to have an opportunity to feel good about his senior year and finish this season.”
Moison has discovered that even while on his back at times, wrestling offers him a respite from the pain he endures as part of his everyday life.
“It’s a lingering pain. It’s always there. But it’s not really noticeable when I’m wrestling,” Moison said. “With my mind on the match, I’m not worried about it. I get a boost of adrenaline and can push through it. I can worry about the pain later.
“Through wrestling season, I’ve started to feel better,” he added. “I guess work is the best medicine for it.”
Moison and the Tigers will be at home Tuesday for duals with Kickapoo and Branson, before competing in the Branson Tournament this weekend.
Moison began going through practices on the mat about a week before his first action. Doctors told him only he could determine when he would feel good enough to compete.
“I had to give myself clearance,” he said. “Basically, you can’t do anything about it besides work through it and work out the muscles around it. I felt like I was ready and I was. The road to get to that point was painful. But it’s not been nearly as bad since I’ve strengthened my back muscles.”
Most causes of scoliosis are unknown. Moison’s formative years never gave him any indication he would have the condition.
“The only time I experienced any back pain was at the end of my sophomore year,” he said. “I thought it was just casual stuff. I went to a chiropractor to fix it and I felt good for a while. Then, it came back last year. It started toward the end of last season and it got worse.”
Moison was a winner even while suffering a 6-2 loss in a dual at Carthage last week. His match went the full six minutes, earning him invaluable conditioning.
As he looks ahead, Moison is hardly content to just ride things out. A 138-pounder last season, he's eyeing a return trip to State as a 152-pounder.
“I definitely feel I can do that,” Moison said of making State. “After all my workouts, I should be back to normal. I’m not looking forward to all the workouts. But I know I’ve got to push through it and I need it.”
“He’s not going to just show up. That’s not Clayton. He’s competitive,” Sundlie said. “For the amount of work it’s going to take for him to feel good, he’s going to have to be here earlier and stay later than other people. I know he’s tough enough. We’re rooting for him.”