Iowa 133-pounder Cory Clark celebrates after winning the final match at the NCAA Championships in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, March 18, 2017. Clark is the first Hawkeye to win the title since Tony Ramos in 2014. (Anthony Vazquez/ The Daily Iowan)

Clark battles injuries, wins national title

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By Courtney Baumann | courtney-baumann@gmail.com

Torn ligaments in his wrist and a blown out shoulder socket couldn’t stop Iowa wrestler Cory Clark from doing what he always knew he could – win a national title.

Saturday night Clark had one last chance to accomplish the feat he could not in two other trips to the NCAA Finals, and he made the most of it. Squaring off against former teammate turned No. 2 seeded South Dakota State 133-pounder Seth Gross, Iowa’s senior won on the big stage by a 4-3 decision.

Clark went down right away in the first after a Gross takedown, but tied the score with two escapes – one from the takedown and one from starting down in the second period. Clark could not erase the riding time Gross had built up when he started on top in the third, and a Gross escape put the score at 3-2, not including the point then for riding time.

Not taking many shots in the first period, Clark knew he had to be calculated with his attempts in order to score on Gross.

His calculations worked.

“My shots were there, but I wasn’t going to – with my shoulder dinged up I gotta be crisp. I can’t be diving and hoping to get a leg,” Clark said. “I finally, late in the match, I had to go to it. I went to it. And right when I got in on the leg, Terry [Brands] said, ‘You’ve been here your whole life, you’re good,’”

Clark rode Gross out for the rest of the third period to earn the rights to best in the nation.

Since January, it has been obvious there was something wrong with Clark. He sat out the month of December, and when he returned, he donned a large black brace over his left shoulder and taped wrist on the same side.

Being the stoic man he is, the short-lived absence and the new gear were the only evidence that something had happened. Any time either he or Iowa head coach Tom Brands were asked, it was the same answer – Clark was ready to go when he needed to go.

While that may not have always been the case physically, it was mentally. Though he was admittedly hurting and unsure about his future, Brands was not. He knew what his wrestler could accomplish, and talked sense back into him following the injuries.

 

Clark has always been a thinker, and his mind has allowed him to be patient, an attribute necessary in dealing with his injuries.

Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands said Clark’s state of mind was the reason for what he accomplished over the weekend.

“I think he was dialed in, he was relaxed. You could tell by his demeanor all weekend – he was super relaxed and he was ready to go. He wasn’t racy and didn’t force things. The couple of times that he did force them he got in trouble, but then he solved it,” Terry Brands said. “That shows a lot of mat savvy, it shows a lot of poise, it shows a lot of focus. That clarity in his mind – that was the difference in the weekend for him.”

Clark became the first Iowa wrestler since Tony Ramos in 2014 to win a national title

Tom Brands said the end of the drought needed to happen, and he’s happy it did for Clark, his family, the team, and the school.

Seeing him at his lowest immediately after the injuries, the head coach knew the guts it took for Clark to not only compete, but also finish the season at the highest level possible.

“All I said to him when I met him on the edge of the mat there was, ‘You’re a tough son-of-a-gun,’ and that’s what he was,” Brands said. “He’s always been like that.”

LOOK FOR MORE ON CORY CLARK AND THE IOWA WRESTLING TEAM IN THE DAILY IOWAN OR ON DAILYIOWAN.COM ON MARCH 20. 

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