Chase Clark has his own version of must-see TV, but it has nothing to do with what any television network is trying to sell its viewers.
Clark is a junior at Oregon High School, and the starting 138-pounder for the Hawks’ wrestling team. His father, Steve, videotapes each of his matches. Those matches are not only viewed by father and son, but also by Steve’s wife, Ami, and daughter, Avery, an eighth-grader at Rahn Junior High.
The viewing is part entertainment, part informational.
“We watch them to see, OK, this is what I did good, this is what I can improve on, this is what I need to work on,” Clark said. “It’s like a family event. We all gather around the TV and it’s like, ‘Oh, let’s watch this match. This is a good one.’ Or maybe it’s, ‘Oh, cover your eyes, this is a bad one.’”
Most of them have been good ones. Clark has amassed a 33-7 record heading into the Class 1A Winnebago Regional on Saturday. All that is well and good, but he knows that ultimately a season is judged on what happens in the postseason.
Thus far, Clark has had two cracks at the sectional. As a freshman, he was a sectional alternate, but when a competitor in his weight class (126 pounds) didn’t make weight, Clark got his shot.
As a sophomore, Clark lost in the 132-pound wrestlebacks to North Boone’s Zach Westlund, 5-3. A win would have put Clark in the third-place bout, and guaranteed a trip to state.
“Two points,” Clark said. “I think about that all the time. Two points.”
Clark tried other sports growing up, including 4 years of soccer and a few seasons of baseball, but he always came back to wrestling. It’s the only sport he competes in at Oregon.
“I did a clinic when I was 7, and something just clicked,” Clark said. “I couldn’t stop doing it.”
It has become a year-round passion. In the fall and spring, he competes for the Alpha Wrestling Academy, a club team based in Rockford. In the winter, it’s all about the Hawks, and his dedication is noticed.
“He’s put in a lot of time in the offseason,” assistant coach Justin Lahman said. “He continues to come in in the morning. Every time we have an extra practice, he’s the first one to jump at it. He knows being that close last year, and what that felt like to go home. As everybody knows, our sectional is a monster in itself, so he knows he’s got a long road, but he’s definitely been putting in the work to make it happen this year.”
Clark admitted he’s not the most muscle-bound 138-pounder around, and that goes to his training. He concentrates on a lot of running and cardiovascular work, to improve his stamina. He’s willing and able to go 6 minutes – or beyond, if necessary – to win bouts.
“I’ve been told that if I’m up by a little bit or down by a little bit and it’s the third period, I’ve got this because I’m so well-conditioned,” Clark said. “I’m not the strongest and I’m not the fastest, but I can out-pace guys.”
Clark used the word “patient” to describe his style on the mat. His strategy has generally been to wait for opponents to make a mistake, and then pounce. He is trying to expand his game, however.
“I’m probably one of the more defensive wrestlers in the area,” Clark said. “That’s got me this far, but if I can work on becoming more aggressive, taking more shots, working the other guy into positions I want instead of waiting for them, I can probably do a lot better.”
FYI: 3-year wrestler for the Hawks, and a 2-time sectional qualifier. … Owns a 33-7 record at 138 pounds this season. … Has a 3.8 grade point average. … Member of the school band as a percussionist