What was behind Cory Clark's decision to wrestle at 133
IOWA CITY, Ia. – Cory Clark remembers the day well. Less than a week before he was scheduled to compete at 125 pounds, he arrived at Iowa wrestling practice weighing 140.
"Brands was pretty mad at me," Clark said of Iowa's intense head coach, Tom Brands.
In retrospect, Clark was mad at himself, too.
He had only himself to blame for the extreme weight cuts. Clark said he had been undisciplined the previous summer and didn't step on the scale once.
"I made it harder on myself than I needed to," he said.
Brands called out Clark's weight control following the Midlands Championships last December. While Clark ran out of gas in the Midlands semifinals against Jarrod Garnett, Hawkeye teammate Thomas Gilman was on the adjacent mat beating NCAA champion Jesse Delgado.
"How are you supposed to … weigh in 15 pounds lighter, then an hour later go out and wrestle one of the best kids in the country?" Clark said. "That's pretty tough to do."
Weight cutting shouldn't be as much of an issue this season for Clark. The all-American sophomore is jumping up a weight class to 133 pounds, a move that he thinks will bring him to his "full potential." He told Brands this summer he'd like to move up. Brands said he was meaning to talk about that with Clark anyway.
"It was basically a quick conversation," Brands said.
Clark said he never worried about his weight in high school. He was a four-time state champion at Southeast Polk, climbing from 112 pounds as a sophomore to 119 as a junior and 126 as a senior.
He was more or less forced into competing with Gilman at 125, with eventual NCAA champion Tony Ramos entrenched at 133 last year. Now Ramos is gone, and Clark is set to replace him.
The Iowa wrestling media day breakdown lists Clark, and only Clark, at 133. Without ever wrestling a collegiate match at that weight, he's already ranked fourth or fifth in the preseason national rankings at 133.
Gilman, meanwhile, has a clear path at 125. He's ranked between fourth and seventh.
"I don't see anyone that's unbeatable at 133," Clark said. "And I don't see anyone that's unbeatable at 125."
Clark lost the job to Gilman for a stretch last season, but got the call at the Big Ten and NCAA championships. The two battled against each other in practice, knowing that only one could wrestle when it counted at 125.
Clark said there was an "almost-unintentional grudge toward" Gilman a year ago. The pair's rivalry dates back to at least 2003, when they competed in the 50-pound state AAU bracket. Gilman, a Council Bluffs native, finished third; Clark won.
Gilman said last year's battle took a toll on him mentally. He also identified physical short-comings, such as improving his bottom-position skills.
"It's good for both of us not having that underlying competitive issue," Gilman said.
No doubt, the Clark move makes Iowa's lineup stronger.
And the pair isn't likely to be competing for one spot again. Gilman has no weight issues and sees himself as a 125-pounder throughout his college career.
"I just give my body what it needs," Gilman said. "I don't put in things that it doesn't need. Sometimes as human beings, we want to be comfortable. As a competitor, as an athlete, I can't really be comfortable."
The move fits Gilman's nutrition discipline, Clark's frame and the Hawkeye lineup: A win-win-win.
"I felt like I can wrestle better at 133 anyway," Clark said.
WRESTLING: WHAT'S NEXT
• Iowa: Opens its season Saturday at Luther Open, Decorah
• Iowa State: Wrestles Friday in duals in Boise against Utah Valley (4 p.m.) and Boise State (7 p.m.)
• Northern Iowa: The Panthers host media day Tuesday afternoon in Cedar Falls. Follow reporter Andy Hamilton's coverage on Twitter (@Andy_Hamilton) and in Wednesday's Register.