Even as freshman, McDonogh's Clark is best in class

New Jersey native discusses being rated tops in 130-pound class even before 1st meet

  • McDonogh's Jack Clark, who has a 3.3 grade-point average, hopes to attend Northwestern and make the 2016 or 2020 Olympic team.
McDonogh's Jack Clark, who has a 3.3 grade-point average,… (Algerina Perna / Baltimore…)
December 15, 2010|By Sandra McKee, The Baltimore Sun

Jack Clark is only a freshman, but when it became known he would be coming to McDonogh this fall, the news lit up the message boards on wrestling sites. Without wrestling one match as a student at a Maryland school, his name appeared at the top of the 130-pound weight class on the Maryland Wrestling Forum.

Clark's coach at McDonogh, Pete Welch, doesn't reject the idea of his being the best, though he does acknowledge that seeing Clark succeed against upperclassmen at his position is "pretty extraordinary.

"Jack has a strong desire to win," Welch said. "And he's put a lot of time into it. He's very cool under pressure, and when he's wrestling seniors, no matter what the score, it's like he shifts into another gear and comes out on top."

Clark, 14, has a 3.3 grade-point average and says he hopes to attend Northwestern and make the 2016 or 2020 Olympic team.

Question: The Sun photographer just had you posing for a portrait while all your teammates hung around. You were rated tops in your weight class as a freshman, even before you wrestled one match. Are you uncomfortable with so much attention, especially while being new at school?

Answer: I'm not used to having my picture taken like that. That was a first. And I don't smile. I mean I don't just smile for the camera. I mean I smile in conversation when something is funny, but I can't just smile for the picture. That was hard. But to be ranked the best, I'm not nervous or uncomfortable with that. I worked hard to get there. I'm proud to be recognized for what I've achieved.

Q: I understand you're from New Jersey. How did you wind up here at McDonogh?

A: When I was little, I came here for the McDonogh Duals (a junior tournament) and the school looked amazing. I ended up liking it — loving it, really. Now I board here and go home on weekends — except during wrestling season. I do miss home, but my parents come to watch me wrestle all the time.

Q: Did your dad wrestle, and is that how you got involved in the sport?

A: My dad did wrestle in high school, and he helps me a lot. He's like a coach. The most important thing he's taught me is to always work hard. Be the hardest worker in the room. And that you have to work as hard as possible all the time to win. But dad wrestling isn't why I started. I was 6 and playing football. A lot of my friends on the football team wrestled and kept after me to try it. I asked my dad, and that's how it started. Halfway through that first year it was so much fun, I just loved doing it.

Q: You mentioned your dad has told you to be the hardest worker in the room and work as hard as possible all the time. Is that possible?

A: If I push myself I can do it. But I do sometimes get tired.

Q: How much time do you put into wrestling?

A: I wrestle almost all the time. I lift weights, run and practice for wrestling. After school is over, I wrestle in June and July, but then I usually take August and September off.

Q: What is it about the sport that you like so much?

A: Wrestling is all about yourself. If you lose a bad match, it's all on you. I like that. I like the independence of it. It's a lot of fun.

Q: What are your favorite moves?

A: I like taking shots, going for takedowns. I'm good at them. I know how to set up my opponent to get in the right position. I also like throws. I like them more than shots, but they're more dangerous. They're cooler, but If you mess up you're probably going to get pinned.

Q: What have you learned about wrestling at McDonogh that you didn't know before?

A: Everywhere you go to wrestle is different. The drills are different, the coach is different, your wrestling partner is different. My wrestling partner, Xavi Ramos — he asked me to drop his name, but I wanted to anyway because we drill really hard and make each other better. His style of wrestling is the kind that messes me up. He's long-bodied, and that's hard for me to handle, so I get time learning how to get better against wrestlers like him. And my strength is being on my feet, and he's learning how to cope with that.

But so far, the biggest thing I've learned in high school is that you have to manage your weight a lot better. In middle school you can eat and make weight once a month. Here, you have to make weight two to three times a week. I've also learned that you have to stay on your homework, study a lot and the grades will come.

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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