Clark learns from McDonough ahead of Penn State dual


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Last year, during his redshirt season, Cory Clark made headlines and caused heads to turn when he beat Illinois’s Jesse Delgado, 6-1, at the UNI Open. Delgado, at the time, was the second-ranked 125-pounder in the country by InterMat — just a step behind former Hawkeye Matt McDonough.

Since then, wrestling fans all over have eagerly waited for this season, figuring that Clark would be Iowa’s next great 125-pound wrestler. They assumed correctly, as Clark seemingly won the spot when he beat fellow Hawkeye Thomas Gilman in the 125-pound finals at the Luther Open earlier this season.

But Clark hasn’t really faced any daring opponents so far this season. His toughest matchup was against Iowa State’s Earl Hall, where he won 8-7. Clark’s 9-0 record — which includes 6 falls, two decisions, and a major decision — will finally be put to the test on Saturday, when No. 3 Iowa hosts No. 1 Penn State in one of the most highly anticipated wrestling duals in recent memory.

Clark, ranked fourth at 125 pounds, is set to take on Penn State’s Nico Megaludis, who’s ranked third. Megaludis, a junior, has reached the finals of the last two NCAA championships at college wrestling’s smallest weight class. His career record sits at 66-13, and he’s posted a 10-1 mark this season, losing to just Cornell’s second-ranked Nahshon Garrett.

“We definitely have to be more ready to go,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “You got opportunities … You got Nico Megaludis, who wrestles hard, coming into town. We’ve got opportunities to rise to the occasion.”

It will certainly be the first true test for Clark, who’s been pegged as a national-title contender since he claimed the starting spot as his own. But before the Southeast Polk product even steps on the mat on Saturday night, he’ll have a bit of an edge.

McDonough, who graduated last year, continues to frequent the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, both as a competitor for the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and as a practice partner for some of Iowa’s lighter weights. He has wrestled Megaludis three times and has come away with three wins.

So it wasn’t a surprise to McDonough when Clark asked for some tips about wrestling Megaludis. McDonough’s told Clark about the Nittany Lion’s high pace, his tendency to hand fight, and what Clark might have to do to escape from bottom quickly.

“It doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure,” Clark said. “You’re just one step ahead.”

The seasoned McDonough calls his successor a competitor, and admits that Clark has looked more focused this week because of Saturday’s matchup — “You always notice a little something when it’s time for those battles,” McDonough said.

Being a smart wrestler means preparing for what’s next, he said — and part of that is doing your homework.

“You’re wrestling your own match, no matter what,” McDonough said. “But it’s important to know your opponent.”

McDonough has seen the improvement from Clark between last year and this year, noting that Clark’s ability to score points more efficiently and quickly is what sticks out the most. And if anything, helping Clark out before a tough matchup is just another way to pay it forward.

It helps keep the winning in the program.

“I don’t want to just watch him do big things. I want to lend as much help as I can,” McDonough said. “I want to see him win a national title.”

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