Cary Highs Parker Ragsdale and Will Clark have been well-schooled in Imp wrestling lore.
Jerry Winterton, who built a 540-3 regular-season dual-meet record in almost 30 years as the Cary coach, occasionally is on hand to mention how some former Imps state champion did a particular move, and Carys former greats show up periodically to tell the current wrestlers about what the program meant to them and how they still are using the lessons they learned in the mat room.
Ragsdale and Clark are adding to that legacy under current coach Taylor Cummings.
Ragsdale, a 126-pound senior, and Clark, a 138-pound junior, are undefeated this season and ranked No. 1 in their weight classes by retrorankings.com, a statewide online site that tracks high school wrestling.
Both finished third in their weight classes in the 2013 N.C. High School Athletic Association championships. Both have been overwhelming this season.
Im pretty pleased with most of my matches, Clark said. I could have done better in a few, but overall Ive done pretty well.
Clark has been wrestling for a long time. His father Ken Clark wrestled at Wilson High and later at Campbell. Ken thought his son would enjoy wrestling and got Will started when he was about 8 years old.
The more Will has wrestled, the more the sport has appealed to him.
Wrestling is a sport where being the most physically gifted doesnt always matter, Clark said. In football, if youre really fast or really big, youve got an advantage that it is hard to overcome.
But wrestling is a sport where you have to work. The guy that works the hardest has the edge. If you want to win, you work harder. Wrestling is where work can overcome the physically gifted.
Clark said there are no excuses. After losing 4-3 to East Gastons Jacob Grigg, the eventual state champion, in the 2013 state tournament, Clark asked himself if he was willing to work harder?
Carys former greats did.
The wrestlers who come back and talk to us talk about going the extra mile, Clark said. Are you willing to go the extra mile? Are you going to work that hard?
Clark thought about the extra mile a lot of recently. He usually doesnt have much trouble keeping his weight in his division, but he said he loved to eat during the holidays.
I have a love-hate relationship with food, he said. I loved eating it and hated myself for eating so much. Id eat too much and know that Id have some extra running to do.
He pushes himself with memories of how he felt after last years state tournament.
I was glad I won the third-place match, he said. Going into the tournament I was so caught up in that I had to win, I had to do this or that, that I didnt wrestle that well. Once I lost, I just went out and wrestled. It was probably the best Ive ever wrestled.
When I was third, I was happy, but I didnt think I had accomplished that much.
His goals are simple this year go undefeated, win the state title, be named the most outstanding wrestler. After that, he wants to wrestle in college, be an all-American, win an NCAA championship.
To get there, he is willing to continue to work.
Working is the only way I know to be successful, he said.
He said he is fortunate to be on a team that has other good wrestlers, like Ragsdale.
In practice, you want someone who will push you, Clark said. We really go after it in practice.