Press Wrestler of the Year Jack Clark's state title highlights homecoming
Jack Clark didn't hesitate to answer.
The St. Augustine Prep senior is ranked fourth in the country among high school wrestlers at 152 pounds and has won tournaments all around the country, including two National Prep titles.
So where does Clark rank the New Jersey state title he won at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on March 9?
"It's the best one," Clark said. "I felt the best about it. I was the most emotional about it. The excitement, the emotion - everything about the New Jersey state title was the best."
Clark came to the Prep from national power McDonogh School in Maryland.
He leaves as the 2013-14 Press Wrestler of the Year. He went 29-0 as a senior and 167-15 in his scholastic career.
"It was a crazy year," Clark said. "I had to sit out (30 days as a transfer), which was really hard, but I think it pushed me to work harder and wait for my time."
Clark grew up in Washington Township.
He spent the first three years of his high school career in Maryland before transferring home for one season before wrestling at the University of North Carolina next season.
Clark brought more than his belongings back home.
He also came with enormous expectations but managed to live up to or even surpass them.
"It is very impressive," Prep coach Bill Ward said. "With all the pressure that was put on him to win the whole thing and to actually come through with it is pretty amazing and a testament to him."
Clark was the first state champ at the Prep since Bob Malatesta in 1985 and the first in the Cape-Atlantic League since Holy Spirit's Mac Mancuso in 2007.
The Hermits won the CAL American Conference and South Jersey Non-Public A titles this season and finished the year ranked third in The Press' Elite 11.
"The kids gravitated towards him and he embraced that," Ward said. "He's not a cocky kid. He's a very humble kid, and he's actually a great teacher in the room, too."
A late challenge
Clark was almost a victim of his own success.
He rolled through his first 28 wins of the season without going a full six minutes even once.
He had three first-period technical falls on his way to the District 32 title and was named Most Outstanding Wrestler in the Region 8 tournament.
But he found himself locked in a 1-1 match with three-time state runner-up Gary Dinmore of Hunterdon Central in the 152-pound state final. Dinmore will wrestle at Penn State next season.
"I kept telling myself this is my last match of high school," Clark said. "Even when the match went to overtime, I was tired, but I kept saying it's my last high school match.
"It was one and done - take down, you win, get taken down and lose."
Clark took Dinmore down late in overtime for a 3-1 decision.
"His poise was unbelievable in that match," Ward said. "He never really lost his focus, but the thing is he's been in so many of those matches.
"It was just a pleasure to watch him all year."
Clark was also happy to be teammates with younger brother Nick for one season. Nick won his first District 32 title this season. Jack wrestled 152 and Nick at 160.
"It was awesome," Jack Clark said. "It was really cool wrestling Clark brother, Clark brother.
"Having a season with him, practicing with him and watching him get better throughout the year, was really cool."
Clark is ready to pursue his dreams of becoming an NCAA champion at North Carolina.
"He's got the work ethic," Ward said. "He's got everything he needs to do well there and he knows what he's got to do. I think he's going to do well."
Coach of the Year
Scott Stay accumulated more than his fair share of accolades as a wrestler.
Now he's starting to pile them up as a coach.
Millville qualified for the state tournament for the second year in a row for the first time in school history this season.
The Thunderbolts won the first playoff match in school history and won 18 matches this season.
Stay is the 2013-14 Press Coach of the Year.
His approach is simple.
"I want them to continue to get better," Stay said. "I want them to control the things that they can control - their effort, their preparation and how they approach each match."
Stay had a career record of 134-14-1 at Council Rock High School and was a Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AAA state champ. He went 36-0 with 33 pins his senior season without giving up a single takedown.
He went on to win two ACC championships and was a three-time NCAA qualifier at North Carolina.
So his wrestlers know that Stay has been there.
Millville sent eight wrestlers to the Region 8 tournament. Ed Shockley and Obi Kali each qualified for states. Shockley finished fourth in the state, Millville's highest finish in the state tournament since Mark Saul's second state title in 1996.
But Stay said the biggest wins come away from the mat.
Shockley will play football at Villanova next season. Four-year starter Chad Kahn will attend the Citadel.
Kali never wrestled before his freshman season but was a two-time state qualifier under Stay. Connor Dixon and Sean Platt had never won more than 10 matches before this season but combined to win 55 this year.
"Obviously, the winning helps," Stay said. "But even without that, seeing how much they grew as people was nice."
Team of the Year
Southern Regional went wire-to-wire this season.
The Rams were ranked No. 1 in the first and last Press Elite 11's this season and are the 2013-14 Press Team of the Year.
Southern won its first 20 matches of the season before a tough loss to Phillipsburg in the state Group IV final.
The Rams won the Shore Conference A-South title before going on to win their fourth straight South Jersey Group IV title, the team's ninth in the last 10 seasons.
Southern also won its fourth straight District 24 team title, its 12th in the last 13 seasons.
The Rams crowned six district champs and sent 11 wrestlers to the Region 6 tournament. Southern had three Region 6 champs and had six wrestlers reach states in Atlantic City, with Zach Wilhelm (fifth at 145) and Gerardo Jorge (eighth at 170) each making their way onto the awards podium.
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