- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) - For a top college athlete, the last thing on your mind is the idea that your body can fail you.

The constant upkeep of your body’s health absorbs an inordinate amount of your time, because without a body formed by rigorous maintenance you wouldn’t be considered one of the nation’s best wrestlers at one of the nation’s best junior college wrestling programs.

Your body is what people notice first. It is the physical embodiment of your strength, it fills out your form-fitting uniform and it is envied by others.

But for Northwest College’s Jeff McCormick, it was his mind that helped him return to the mat after he was blindsided by a ruptured appendix in early January. It almost cost him his athletic career, and much more.

“I was actually told I probably should have died,” McCormick said in a Spokane hotel room on Feb. 27, the day before the NJCAA Wrestling Championships, which began less than two months after the All-American underwent emergency surgery.

A native of Kamas, Utah, McCormick was home for the holidays when he first noticed something was off.

“I was having a lot of pain, a lot of stomach pain,” he said.

So he sought help at a local health center, where his condition was brushed off as a common occurrence.

“I was misdiagnosed when I first went to the clinic in Utah,” McCormick said. “That’s when we first thought it was a kidney stone.”

McCormick traveled back to Powell to rejoin his team and to begin the fall semester. But things got much worse in a hurry.

The pain got to be so intense that McCormick had his friend take him to the Powell Valley Healthcare.

“The morning I went to the hospital … I was getting so sick I could barely stand up straight,” McCormick explained. “I was having trouble walking and understanding what was going on.”

What was going on was certainly no kidney stone.

“They figured out really quick that my appendix had burst and had been burst for three days,” McCormick said.

After discussing it with his parents, McCormick flew to Salt Lake City where he could see a specialist and be near his family. He was breathing rapidly and drifting in and out of consciousness when he was told on Jan. 4 he would have to go under the knife immediately.

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