Clutch kicker begins recovery from leg injury

| Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012, 12:16 a.m.

The leg that lifted the Knoch football team into last fall's WPIAL Class AAA championship game is on the mend.

Kory Wood, who drilled an 18-yard field goal as time expired to give the Knights a 9-7 win over Franklin Regional in the semifinals, has been recovering from a wakeboarding accident that occurred in late June on the Allegheny River near Freeport.

He broke both bones in his lower left leg, which he uses to kick the ball.

Wood set seven Knoch records and planned to become a walk-on at Division I-FCS Youngstown State this coming season before the injury placed his football future in doubt. But Wood, who loves adventure sports such as wakeboarding and snowboarding, believes he can make a comeback on the gridiron.

“I'm young, it will heal,” said Wood, who turns 19 in October. “It won't be that bad. The doctor said I'll heal up fine. It's a minor setback.”

Wood visited his doctor Wednesday and received permission to start six weeks of physical therapy. He recently transitioned from a wheelchair to crutches. Wood said he was told he's ahead of schedule on recovery.

Knoch coach Mike King refers to Wood's pressure-packed field goal that propelled the Knights to Heinz Field as “the kick heard ‘round Saxonburg.”

In the final, Knoch (12-1) was upended by Montour, 42-14.

Wood made 59 consecutive extra points during a stretch of the 2011 season and finished with a school-record 133 career points. King credited Wood with an outstanding work ethic, a trait that will serve him well during rehabilitation.

“The kid has all the hopes and dreams of being a college athlete,” King said. “Unfortunately, something as freaky as this accident changes everything. Life throws us a lot of curveballs. But I think Kory will do everything he can to bounce back.”

Wood clearly remembers the June 22 accident and following ordeal. He was strapped by his feet to the wakeboard and was being towed by a motorboat. He tried to perform a back-flip. He'd been wakeboarding for several years and successfully completed the maneuver many times before.

“It's a simple trick I do,” Wood said. “But I landed wrong. At first, I didn't think there was anything wrong. I heard a loud crack when I hit the water and thought maybe I did break the wakeboard. Then I looked down and saw my leg was sideways. That's when it started hurting.”

Wood spent about an hour in the water because he was still bound to the wakeboard. His friend, Bobby Stark, a North Catholic graduate, swam him to shore.

A helicopter carried Wood to Pittsburgh's Allegheny General Hospital, where he underwent surgery the next morning. Doctors inserted a titanium rod into his tibia, the larger of the two lower leg bones.

“The doctors said he'll heal stronger than ever,” said Doug Wood, Kory's father. “Hopefully, as far as football is concerned, this is just a little detour.”

Wood hopes to walk and do light weightlifting this fall. It's likely he won't attempt to kick again until next spring.

During rehab, Wood will attend Butler County Community College. He's still interested in attending Youngstown because of its engineering program but is unsure if that school will remain his destination if he returns to kicking. He also received interest from Akron and Temple last year.

King thinks Wood, when healthy, can compete for a starting role at the Division I level.

“There's no question in my mind that he could,” King said.

Kory's older brother, Kevin, is a rising junior kicker at Division I-FCS St. Francis (Pa.). Last season, Kevin handled kickoffs for the Red Flash.

Kory also played soccer at Knoch and earned a reputation as a fearless seeker of new athletic experiences.

“I've been really active,” Wood said. “When you do sports, things like this happen. It's not my first injury. I've had concussions and broken legs before. I'm not that kid sitting on the couch. I'm out running, lifting, playing sports and living life.”

However, Wood added that he'd put aside adventure sports for awhile if he played college football.

“I don't want to hurt the team or myself while I'm at school,” Wood said. “After that, I'll keep living life the way I like to.”

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