The good thing about wrestling is that everything is proved on the mat.  Whether you are a freshman or senior, an All-American or in your first match ever, what happens inside the circle is the only thing that counts.

That’s why McDonogh freshman Jack Clark was able to do what he did this past weekend, coming in as an 11th seed and beating two national caliber wrestlers en route to his first ever high school tournament championship.

Clark came into his first high school season with an extensive wrestling background in junior league, but his performance on the high school level was undoubtedly a spectacular one, beating some top national talent en route to his 130-pound championship.

In the semifinals, Clark worked a tough 7-4 win over St. Mark’s senior Tyler Pendergast, and went in an exciting championship final to pin Good Council senior Shame Arechiga on overtime for the tournament win.

“The second match, I didn’t wrestle too well against [Georgetown Prep’s Daniel] Sanchez.  I almost lost not wrestling my match,” Clark said of his 4-3 decision.  “But today, wrestling Pendergast and Arechiga, I wrestled much better and it felt great.”

In an exciting overtime match, Clark got in on a single and caught former state champ and National Prep All-American Arechiga trying to roll through his legs, pinning him in 6:20 for the title.

Clark opened the match with the first takedown and established a 2-0 first period lead, but soon found himself on the bad end of a 5-3 deficit.  The freshman showed poise, however, and came back to tie the match late in the third period, sending it to overtime and the eventual win.

“The whole match I kept getting in on my singles, and he is such a funky kid, so he kept doing the forward roll,” Clark explained.  “At the end, I knew he was tired and he was going to try it again.  So in overtime, I just stayed calm, he did it again and I was waiting for it come.”

Clark was later joined McDonogh’s 152-pounder Tyler Patrick as a tournament placer, taking second to Sussex Central’s Cody Combs, the eventual tournament Outstanding Wrestler winner.

“It was good.  I usually practice with higher skilled kids like [Nathan] Kraisser and TJ Miller back home and a bunch of good kids,” Clark said of beating some top talent.  “I was ready and I knew what to do.”

Coming into the season with all the achievements of a seasoned wrestler, McDonogh freshman Jack Clark had a lot to live up to.

clar halfThe four-time Ohio Tournament of Champions winner, three-time Tulsa Nationals champ and five time junior league state champ said he felt the nerves going onto the mat, but he left them in the corner and got the job done.

“It is a little nerve racking because I like being the underdog, but it is good,” Clark said of his national recognition.  “I have something to live up to and just try to wrestle the way I wrestle, not listening to everyone else and the hype.”

No wrestler in the 130-pound weightclass had the time to worry about nerves, as the stacked weight class featured some tough seniors in Arechiga and Pendergast, and still dominant underclassmen in Spalding sophomore Cole Graves and Clark’s quarterfinal opponent, Sanchez.

“When I am the underdog, I have nothing to lose and it is easy to go out there and wrestle with no nerves.  I always have confidence in myself, and I wrestle my way all the time,” said Clark, an East Coast National champ and Fila Cadet Nationals winner.  “I just got to keep working up a good sweat, not worry about my weight for tomorrow and just worry about wrestling.  All that will come later.”

It is always great to start the season undefeated, and Clark plans on continuing the run with solid practice and hard work.

“Just keep working hard,” Clark said of his plan to continue winning.  “Practice hard, keep my weight down and just keep on going out there and doing what I’m doing.”