Rare heart defect kills local wrestler

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Associated Press

ITHACA, N.Y. – A rare genetic heart defect caused the death of a promising Cornell University wrestler, according to a preliminary autopsy report.

Graham Baker Morin, 19, of Bellingham, Wash., died Saturday after collapsing during wrestling practice. The team had returned from a two-day Thanksgiving break and had just completed an hour of warm-ups, said coach Rob Koll.

Morin, a freshman, was one of the top recruiting prospects in the country, Koll said. He was a three-time Washington state champion for Squalicum High School. A memorial service for Morin will be held Wednesday at Cornell’s Sage Chapel.

“We never had an inkling; this kind of thing doesn’t show up on routine exams,” said Laurie Morin, Graham’s mother. The family flew to New York Monday.

“He might have had it since birth. I’m waiting to find out more about it,” she said.

In the past, wrestlers have been known to put themselves through grueling, last-minute weight-loss tactics to make their prescribed class weight.

The NCAA implemented new safety rules in 1997 after a string of wrestling-related deaths. Three college wrestlers died in the space of six weeks, including New York native Jeff Reese, a junior at the University of Michigan, who died following a vigorous workout focused on weight loss.

Koll said weight loss was not an issue in Morin’s death.

Laurie Morin said it has crossed her mind that the dieting her son did to make weight in wrestling may have contributed to the heart problem. But she doesn’t have a sense that the dieting had ever gotten out of control.

The Onondaga County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Morin and determined he suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle. A full autopsy report will be issued once routine toxicology test results are returned, said the Onondaga County Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Jacqueline Martin.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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