At 132 pounds, senior wrestler Noah Morrison may not look like the most intimidating kid to walk through the halls of Jeffersonville High School.
However, according to coach Danny Struck’s “power rating”, which takes into account body weight and maxes in lifts such as bench press and deadlift, Morrison is pound-for-pound the strongest kid in the school.
Using his strength, Morrison has wrestled at the Varsity level since his freshman year at Jeff, starting out in the 106-pound weight class before eventually making it to 132 pounds by his senior year.
Noah pins his opponent from Male High School.
Morrison’s wrestling career began in the sixth grade at New Washington, but got off to a bumpy start. Morrison did not win a match his entire sixth grade year, and didn't manage to pick up a win until halfway through his seventh grade year, starting 0-15.
That win, however, was just the beginning for Morrison. After his first win he didn’t lose another match in middle school, and won his conference tournament eighth grade year.
Noah holding the bracket of his middle school conference tournament.
“Going into seventh grade I really started working hard,” Morrison said. “When I realized I could win I didn’t lose another match.”
Morrison wasn’t finished there either, as he’s posted winning records all four years at Jeff, including a 36-8 record this year.
“Noah always had a great attitude and a great sense of humor,” said senior Jack Ferraro. “I’m going to miss wrestling with my brother.”
Morrison doesn’t just get it done for team Jeff either; he also added wrestling at Fargo Nationals to his list of achievements, which is one of the biggest national tournaments for high school students.
“He’s not a gifted wrestler. He knows he has to work harder than others to be where he wants to be,” said head wrestling coach Danny Struck. “He recognizes he has to work hard and he does.”
Noah and coach Struck at regionals.
Unfortunately, Morrison’s senior year was cut short after breaking his thumb in his first match of Regionals. Noah, miraculously, won the match in which the injury occurred, which qualified him for semi-state. He managed to tough out two more matches before ending his season.
Morrison was keen on not letting the injury stop him and planned on wrestling at semi-state. However the injury would prove to be too much to overcome. After losing feeling in his hand at work, he decided it was time to go to the doctor.
“It was really a bittersweet thing, I was really proud of him for pushing through the pain,” Struck said. “I was sad for myself because it was the last time I would get to coach him.”
Morrison’s pain tolerance led doctors to believe that he had only sprained ligaments in his hand, finding it impossible to believe he had broken bones; however, x-rays revealed two clean breaks in his thumb, which would require two pins and a plate to fix.
“D.T. told me that was the first time in six years he’d been wrong,” Morrison said about athletic trainer Daniel Thomas’ decision to let him wrestle. “He said I shouldn’t have been able to get off the mat.”
Although his Jeff career was cut short, Morrison plans to wrestle at Fargo Nationals for a second year and to wrestle in New Zealand this offseason once his thumb heals. While there, he will be able to bounce back and test his talents against some of the best wrestlers in the country and overseas.
Morrison is, undoubtedly, a fantastic wrestler, and his accomplishments speak for themselves; however, there’s much more to him than just a win total and an impressive collection of medals and ribbons.
Noah Morrison had a long, hard road to get to where he is today. One could search night and day, and they’d be hard-pressed to find a kid who has had to push through more, or had more to overcome than he has.
When introduced to Noah, he seems like an average 18-year-old senior; he wrestles, drives, goes to public school, and works at Culver’s. Just like his physical strength, there’s something else about him that outsiders may not notice.
Noah is autistic.
When he was six, Noah was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, and told that he would never be normal, or able to function completely on his own.
Noah, as he does with everything else, overcame this.
“I have to hand it 100-percent to my mom,” Noah said. “They told her I’d never have a normal life, but she knew I could overcome.”
Noah’s mom, Jennifer, ignored the doctors when he was diagnosed, and put him in public schools and refused to let the disease rule Noah’s life.
“Most parents would just say ‘okay, that’s the life you’re gonna have,’” Noah said. “My mom is such a self-driven person, ‘fixing me’ is a bad way to put it but that’s kinda what it was.”
Noah before he came to Jeffersonville.
Jennifer would not be deterred -- she would stop at nothing to make sure Noah had every opportunity a kid without his disease would have. She even went as far as to working with former Indiana governor, and current vice president, Mike Pence, to develop an insurance to help the families of kids struggling with autism.
Noah and his mom, Jennifer.
As hard as his mom pushed, Noah still had a hard time overcoming a lot of things. He had very few friends, he hated touching people (even his family) because he was a germophobe, and while he was very intelligent, he had trouble in school because of severe ADHD.
Noah’s time in elementary school was trying; mostly due to the effects of the disease that still limited his ability to have a normal life.
“I was weird, I was definitely weird; I didn’t have a lot of friends,” Noah said. “My mom pushed me through every day.”
However, his turnaround occurred when he got to middle school. His mom made him join the baseball team to make friends, and the wrestling team to get over his fear of touching people.
Noah and friend and wrestler Josh Cooper at the beginning of their high school careers.
“Noah was having issues with one on one contact with people so I put him in wrestling hoping that would help him overcome that,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t realize all the benefits.”
Both tactics worked. Noah started to come around. Now, for the most part, his symptoms are gone, or go unnoticed.
Middle school was really a transition period for Noah, as he learned to overcome the effects of his disease. He was a stud at baseball and had vastly improved on the wrestling mat; things were really starting to turn around for Morrison and his family.
Then, on March 2, 2012, the Morrisons lost everything.
Noah’s house was completely leveled by a tornado that devastated Henryville, Ind. Noah, Jennifer, and Noah’s sister (Montana) had their lives completely uprooted in a matter of days.
Jennifer's view of the tornado while leaving Henryville.
That summer, following Noah’s eighth grade year, they would end up moving to Jeff to be closer to family.
“That tornado was really a defining point in Noah’s life,” Jennifer said. “As horrible as it was to walk away from a whole other life with nothing and move to a new school, I firmly believe it was the best thing that happened to him.”
Aerial view of the damages in Henryville, including the Morrison's house.
Noah would begin his new life in Jeff. He had a completely clean slate, and he was able to go someplace where he wasn’t thought of as the “weird kid,” as he put it.
“Watching him come out of his shell and become the young man he is makes (you) think he ended up right where he’s supposed to be,” Jennifer said.
With the move, however, came more bad news. That summer, Jennifer was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. This would mean multiple surgeries and seemingly endless rounds of chemo.
This would also mean a lot of missing school for Noah, for the simple reason that he was at every chemo session with his mom.
Jennifer and Noah would get through their difficulties how they always have: together. Now in remission, Jennifer still goes for monthly screenings, and Noah is always there if she needs him.
Now a senior, Noah seems like a completely normal kid. He has come much farther than anyone could have predicted; the sky’s the limit for a kid who wasn’t supposed to be able to even function on his own or take care of himself.
“I do everything they said I wouldn’t do,” Noah said.
Noah is unsure of exactly what he wants to do when he graduates. Whatever he decides to do, the future looks bright, as he will always have the support of his mom.
“I just want him to work his hardest and be the best version of himself he can be,” Jennifer said.