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Hawkeye freshman wrestler Clark makes statement

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | DECEMBER 12, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa wrestling fans won’t see much of Cory Clark this season.

But if the year’s first few weeks have been any indication, they’ll hear about him plenty.

Clark, a prize recruit from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, made a bold statement last weekend at the UNI Open in Cedar Falls. The true freshman stunned No. 2-ranked Jesse Delgado of Illinois in the 125-pound finals, 6-1.

“It means a lot. I didn’t really know where I stand against some of the top-ranked college guys,” Clark said. “I wrestle with [Matt] McDonough, but against some of the other guys with different styles of wrestling, it feels good to know I can compete with anybody.”

Clark’s coaches and teammates say they already knew that. His name last popped up when he came within five seconds of beating two-time NCAA champion McDonough at Iowa’s wrestle-offs. Head coach Tom Brands said that was no fluke.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise,” Brands said. “You see the result [at wrestle-offs], and everybody was like, ‘That was an off-day for McDonough.’ But I think McDonough realized right away, when Clark and [fellow 125-pound freshman Thomas] Gilman came into this wrestling room, they’re different type of freshmen. They’re wired a little bit differently.

“Realistically, you’ve got to factor in age and experience. But do you really?”

Delgado placed seventh last season at the NCAAs. He also handed McDonough his only loss of the season in December 2011 and almost beat him again in the Big Ten Tournament.

None of that fazed Clark.

“I thought I could win. It wasn’t really intimidating that he was a prestigious wrestler,” he said. “It really just fueled my fire and made me more pumped to win. It actually helped me, I guess.”

Clark scored his first takedown on a scramble, then trapped Delgado on his back when the Illinois wrestler tried to roll away for an escape. And with it, he sent a message to the wrestling world: Iowa’s backup at 125 pounds comfortably beat one of the country’s three best wrestlers at the weight.

Clark will redshirt this season. Fans will likely have to travel to small-town tournaments to get a glimpse or wait until next year. But Iowa junior Tony Ramos, who faces the freshman every day in practice, says it will be worth the wait.

“He’s a tough guy,” Ramos said. “We’ve just got a real tough guy there right now. [Clark] would probably be starting anywhere else. He’s just taking his redshirt, learning the little things, and he’s going to be ready to go next year. He’s going to be tough.”

St. John wins weekly award

Iowa junior Derek St. John was named the Big Ten’s Wrestler of the Week on Tuesday after beating Lehigh’s fourth-ranked Joey Napoli, 6-0. It was the first weekly award of St. John’s career.

But the nation’s top-ranked wrestler at 157 pounds wasn’t too thrilled by it.

“It’s pretty cool, but it doesn’t mean a whole lot,” he said. “It’s not like a national championship or a Big Ten title. But yeah, it’s kind of neat just to get that awareness out there.”


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