Clark to wrestle at 125 in Madison

BY DANNY PAYNE | MARCH 07, 2014 5:00 AM

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It was something Cory Clark had been working toward all season. The redshirt freshman had been part of a two-man race for the 125-pound starting spot in the Iowa wrestling team’s lineup.

When it was time for head coach Tom Brands and his staff to make a decision if Clark or Thomas Gilman would be the postseason starter, Clark got the call.

For the four-time Iowa high-school state champion, the decision came as more of a relief than anything else.

“It was kind of just what I’d been working toward,” Clark said. “Just making sure I can do everything right to get the nod, and I guess I got it. In my eyes, I did everything to deserve it. It was a relief I guess.”

While Clark is relieved at the decision, Brands said the choice was not an easy one to make — the 1996 Olympic gold medalist said Clark took the spot over Gilman by “a nose.”

The eighth-year head coach admittedly gave the politically correct answer when asked about how the choice was made. He said both 125-pounders would have been a great choice to put in the lineup for the Big Ten Tournament, scheduled for this weekend in Madison, Wis.

“Clark and Gilman both represent us the way we want them to represent us,” Brands said. “… They’ve both made strides, and it’s not a case of one guy being better than the other guy, it’s a case of which guy maybe emerged a certain way.”

It was a complicated process, he said, and there wasn’t a single deciding factor.

However, Hawkeye 133-pounder Tony Ramos gave a more in-depth insight into the situation.

“It could have been one little slip-up; it could have been the Minnesota match,” Ramos said. “Or it could have been Clark going out there and taking the bull by the horns and pinning the Wisconsin kid that was supposed to be pretty good.

“Those are things that you feel bad for both guys in that situation, but you keep moving forward.”

Those two matches Ramos referred to were Gilman’s fall to Sam Brancale on Jan. 25 and Clark’s pin over Wisconsin’s Ryan Taylor roughly one month later.

Ramos also noted that the number of points each wrestler puts up is important. Clark has the edge over Gilman in that regard, as he has a 15-1 record, with 11 of those matches being bonus-point victories to Gilman’s 17-3 record with six bonus-point wins.

Clark will need those points this weekend when he competes in what he said will be the toughest tournament he’s seen at point in his career.

Clark earned the No. 3 pre-seed in his bracket. Penn State’s Nico Megaludis and Illinois’ Jesse Delgado — the defending NCAA champion at the weight — earned the first and second spot.

The Southeast Polk product will take his undefeated conference record to the tourney. To keep that record, Clark said, he needs to wrestle aggressively.

“Just don’t hold anything back,” Clark said. “Just wrestle wide open like I do in the practice room. That’s when I’m best is when I’m on my offense, and I’m not hesitant, and there’s nothing holding me back. But being smart at the same time.”

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