Mike Clark has come to love the darkness. According to the Buckeye junior, that’s where you see all the stars.
A solid wrestler in his own right, the returning state alternate certainly has done enough to warrant a headline or two.
But when you’re on the same team as Eric Bartos, sometimes things get lost in the shuffle. Bartos is a two-time state placer and the school’s career wins leader with 163. He could climb as high as second in Medina County history.
That’s why the unassuming Clark doesn’t fret over being a complementary piece to his good friend.
“Eric’s the senior. He deserves the attention,” Clark said. “He’s a two-time placer. Eric pushes me. I want to be better than him. We just keep pushing each other and getting better.”
By the time Clark (132) leaves, he could indeed be better.
Many outside the program know Clark is solid, but they might not know his accolades.
At 46-9 a year ago, he tied Bartos for the county wins lead and broke the school record.
With 114 career victories, he’s on pace to join Bartos in the top 10 in the area by the time he’s finished.
At 40-6 this season, Clark could join Bartos and Medina’s Brady Chrisman and break the county record for wins in a season held by Wadsworth’s Kagan Squire (50).
“I don’t know if he even thinks about it,” Buckeye coach Rich Conkle said. “He kind of marches to his own little drum. I think he kind of knew coming in as a freshman, and especially this year, this was going to be Eric’s year. He’s OK with that.”
A two-time Patriot Athletic Conference champion, Clark isn’t OK with being a just-missed kid.
A match from qualifying for state last season, he had Napoleon’s Seth Beard pinned in the district quarterfinals, but the referee was out of position, according to Conkle.
Beard won the match by two points, beat three-time state champ Tyler Warner of Claymont in the state semifinals and then knocked off St. Paris Graham’s Justin Stickley.
It’s a weekend Clark hasn’t forgotten.
“It really gave me a benchmark of how good I actually am,” Clark said. “He beat a three-time champion, so that’s huge. The fact I was that close to him shocked a lot of people, including myself a little bit. It made me push myself harder to get to that level he was at.
“Success is fun, but the failures are where you learn. You have to look at what the kid did to beat you and how you need to improve. They both motivate you in your own way. Losing to a kid, you don’t want to lose to a kid ever again. You want to be better than that kid so you work on your game and work on what you need to do to get to that next level.”
That has worked for Clark, who has lost twice to only Wellington’s Nick Amspaugh in 2015. Amspaugh was a senior who qualified for state.
Clark being in that company has Conkle thinking big things as sectionals begin this weekend.
“He has a good work ethic,” Conkle said. “He constantly improves and is very coachable. He watches film. He soaks everything in that we tell him.”
Contact Brad Bournival at firstname.lastname@example.org.