The University Record, February 11, 2002

Son of U-M staff invited to Olympic training camp for Tae Kwon Do

By Emily Hebert
Record Intern

Marcus Wicker, son of U-M staff members Fred Wicker, painter, and La Cheryl Wicker, administrator for the Substance Abuse Research Center, demonstrates the flexibility that earned him the chance to attend Olympic training camp. (Photo courtesy of the Wickers)
When Marcus Wicker was nine-years-old, his parents Fred and LaCheryl, both U-M staff members, encouraged their son to take up Tae Kwon Do after learning that he was being bullied at school. Since then, “Marcus has taken Tae Kwon Do from self defense to the level of sport,” says Fred Wicker.

A second-degree black belt, Marcus, 17, placed second at the National Junior Olympics and has been invited to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to work with Olympic coaches during the week of Feb. 28. If all goes well, Wicker could have the opportunity to represent the U.S. as an alternate at next year’s Junior Olympics.

Given Wicker’s previous accomplishments, he is hopeful that he will gain recognition at the Olympic Training Center. In a sport where most people don’t become a second-degree black belt until they’re 21, Wicker acquired his when he was just 14. “Marcus went to a tournament in Indiana and beat a 29-year-old who was a fourth-degree black belt,” relates Fred.

Despite his advancement in the sport, Tae Kwon Do is just one of many interests for Marcus. In fact, having so many other extracurricular activities in addition to Tae Kwon Do is sometimes overwhelming for the Willow Run High School senior. “It’s hard to keep up [with Tae Kwon Do], but I love it, so it’s worth it,” says Marcus. Currently, he divides his time between playing tenor saxophone for his high school band, working at a local retail store, being a member of National Honor Society and writing for the school newspaper. He hopes to become a journalist.

Regardless of whether or not Marcus adheres to his career aspirations, Fred Wicker says all he wants is for his son to be happy. “I just want him to do well in school and to find a job where he can make a decent living and feel gratified with his work,” says the senior Wicker.

Fred Wicker says that his own job, as a painter for the U-M maintenance department, is gratifying. He mentions sanding and refinishing the Michigan Union Mug and U Club’s 300 wooden tables as an example. “It’s a personal satisfaction to be able to transform something shabby into something great,” says Wicker. Although he has found his 26 years as a painter rewarding, Wicker wants his son to pursue other options. “Instead of working for someone, my preference is for Marcus to go to college and start his own business,” says Wicker. “But it could be a painting service if he wanted.”

Marcus’ younger brother, Brian, already is getting a head start. At 14-years-old, Brian has developed “Clips,” a lawn trimming business. “He has fliers and set prices, depending on the amount of trimming being done,” Fred Wicker says, smiling. Proud of both sons’ endeavors, Fred most admires their “willingness to work.”

Undoubtedly his sons’ hard work ethic was inspired by their father’s. On average, Fred Wicker works a 60-hour week. “My dad is signed up for Tae Kwon Do classes, but he doesn’t go because he’s always working,” says Marcus. “He’s hoping that one day he’ll have time, though,” the younger Wicker adds.

Fred Wicker says he used to bring Marcus and Brian to work with him sometimes when they were younger. “I’ve always shown them the type of work I do and ask them if it’s the type of work they’d want to do,” he recounts. “When they tell me ‘no,’ I say, ‘well, you know what you need to do then.’”

“Educational values have always been instilled in me by my parents,” says Marcus. As a 6-year-old, Marcus remembers attending work with his father on Take Your Son to Work Day. Marcus says he always was a willing participant, and that he actually found his father’s work “kinda cool.”

“My dad’s job is an honest job,” Marcus states firmly. “But he let me know early on, that choosing a job where you use your head makes things a lot easier.”

In terms of Tae Kwon Do as a possible career path, Marcus doesn’t see himself becoming professional anytime soon. “Tae Kwon Do is something to fall back on, but I want to go to college,” says Marcus. So far, he has applied to U-M, Morehouse College, Hampton University, Western Michigan University and Michigan State University.

Presently, Marcus sees himself as a newspaper employee, but he hasn’t completely ruled out being the future host of the “Today Show.” “Maybe I’ll be the next Bryant Gumbel,” Marcus says, laughing. Although he makes light of the possibility, the fact that his nickname among friends is “Gumbel,” suggests that Marcus Wicker should be taken seriously.