Will Clark’s senior year has hardly gone to plan, but he may still hit every goal he’s set for himself.
As a junior, the Cary wrestler was a state and national champion. The only thing left to accomplish in his career was an undefeated season, so he made it a priority.
“I wanted to win it (as a senior), but win it in a way where there was no question that I should be the state champ,” Clark said. “I’ve had a lot of adversity.”
Clark is unbeaten this year (27-0). Saturday, he won his third straight 4A Mideast regional title. This weekend, he’ll wrestle in the 138-pound class in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A championships in Greensboro.
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Injuries have made his senior year a difficult one, though.
He was sidelined from the start with one fractured bone and one broken bone in his foot. He missed the season’s first two months and returned in January, only to get a concussion and miss two more weeks.
The time away from the mat – “You can’t just grind through a concussion,” Cary coach Taylor Cummings said – taught Clark patience. He learned how to rest and take care of his body.
However, it also negatively affected his conditioning.
Clark has a career record of 136-2 and has signed to wrestle at N.C. State next season. Much of his success is predicated on being the most in-shape wrestler in the gym. Cummings said Clark would sometimes go through 10 workouts in a week.
If Clark faced someone with equal talent or technique, he’d wear him out by the end of the third period.
“What makes him good is he’s a diligent worker,” Cummings said. “It’s no secret. He doesn’t have the magic bullet or anything. It’s what everyone knows: Expose yourself to as much wrestling as you can, stay focused and stay after it, and good things will certainly come your way.”
Clark’s family has fueled his love of wrestling as well as his attitude.
His mom, Sandra Martin Clark, is in the Cary High Sports Hall of Fame for track and field and basketball. His father, Ken Clark, and his uncle Charlie Clark wrestled at Campbell.
His late grandfather, Thomas Martin, instilled in him a critical approach that meshes well with the nature of wrestling. Will Clark has fond memories of his grandfather’s notepad, where Martin jotted down what Will could have done better in any given game, such as soccer or baseball.
“He never saw me wrestle in his life, but he taught me about making everything perfect. Because if it’s not perfect, then it’s not good enough,” Will Clark said.
Cummings said Clark is “a student of the sport” when it comes to technique.
“He’s always kind of looking at the finite things that someone else does and tries to pick those up,” Cummings said. “And I think that’s what keeps it fresh for him. It’s, ‘What new toy can I pick up this week? What new trick can I figure out next week?’ ”
For much of this year, Clark has been forced to wrestle conservatively because he might be too slow to complete a move he would normally execute.
“It’s been noticeably rough on him,” Cummings said. “There have been times when you’re not concerned for his wrestling, but you’re concerned for him a little bit. What he needed to do, in that style of wrestling, and what he wanted to do were often butting heads.”
Yet now, with his high school career coming to a close, his preseason goals are still in front of him.
“I’m back at it now, I guess. Now it’s kind of in sync,” Clark said.
Cummings said he believes there will be a payoff coming for Clark this weekend, especially with everything he’s gone through this year.
“One thing I really hold true, if you make it out of that period of hardship, you’re going to be twice the wrestler that you were going into it,” Cummings said.