March 8, 2014
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Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The conference tournament is still hours away, but Cory Clark has already advanced past the opening round.
Clark, a redshirt freshman from Pleasant Hill, Iowa, will represent the University of Iowa at 125 pounds when the Big Ten Championships open today at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis.
He received the nod over Thomas Gilman, a redshirt freshman who earlier this season reached as high as No. 3 in the national rankings.
“Clark and Gilman both represent us the way we want to be represented,” said UI head coach Tom Brands. “They 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, and the decision from my end is that (Clark) gets the nod by a nose.”
Clark was Iowa’s man when the dual season opened Nov. 22. The Hawkeyes did not hold a preseason wrestle-off, but Clark defeated Gilman, 4-0, in the finals of the Luther Open on Nov. 16 and went on to start Iowa’s first four duals. He eventually constructed an 8-0 record, including six pins, before Brands implemented a platoon leading up to the Midlands Championships.
Both wrestlers started two duals in December. Clark was 2-0 facing Iowa State and Buffalo, while Gilman split a pair of matches against ranked opponents from Edinboro and Penn State. By the end of the month both wrestlers earned a top four seed at the Midlands Championships, and by the end of the tournament Gilman had earned the Midlands title, a Big Ten Wrestler of the Week honor, and the starting job in Iowa’s lineup.
For the first four weeks of January, Gilman sparked Iowa to wins over nationally-ranked Purdue, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska. Clark, meanwhile, was fighting to change course.
“I had some people pointing me in the right direction,” said Clark, a four-time Iowa high school state champion from Southeast Polk. “I had to make big changes in a lot of my old habits and routines. It’s always hard to break old habits and change what you eat, change when you go to bed, but those little things can make a big difference.”
Brands eventually called Clark’s number on Jan. 31 at Northwestern. He answered with a 10-1 major decision over Garrison White, and followed with a 4-1 win over No. 19 Conor Youtsey of Michigan. In Iowa’s final dual of the season, he pinned ninth-ranked Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin, improving his record to 15-0 and eventually earning a spot on the postseason roster.
“It was what I had been working toward. Just making sure I can do everything right to be in the best position to get the nod, and I guess I got it,” said Clark. “In my eyes I did everything to deserve it, so it was a bit of a relief, I guess.”
Clark is the No. 3 seed in a tournament bracket that includes six of the nation’s top-15 wrestlers. He is 5-0 all-time against the championship field, and he has had time to formulate a plan to reach the top.
“Don’t hold anything back,” he said. “Just wrestle wide-open like I do in the practice room. That’s when I’m at my best… when I’m on my offense and I’m not hesitant and there’s just nothing holding me back — but being smart at the same time.”
The 100th Big Ten Championships begin at 10 a.m. (CT) Saturday. BTN will provide live streaming coverage of the session’s I, II, and III, while the championship round will be carried live on the network.