Iowa’s Cory Clark takes shoulder injury, ratings slip in stride

Chris Cuellar

IOWA CITY, Ia. — It seems like Iowa senior Cory Clark is struggling.

The two-time NCAA runner-up at 133 pounds was sidelined for the entire month of December by a shoulder injury, and dropped from No. 1 in the national rankings after loss to Oklahoma State freshman Kaid Brock. Clark is still wearing a black shoulder brace when he wrestles.

But the soft-spoken Southeast Polk alum is taking it all in stride, staying positive Tuesday ahead of Friday’s major matchup with Ohio State’s new No. 1 Nathan Tomasello.

Iowa's Cory Clark (top) wrestles Penn State's George Carpenter at 133 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. Clark won by tech fall, 19-4.

“You don’t want to lose, but sometimes you learn more from a loss than a win,” Clark said, “as hard as that is to say and as dumb as that sounds.

“It’s easy to get down after a loss, but it also can make it easy to get fired up and switch your mindset. Sometimes people get content with where they’re at. A loss can change that real quick.”

Tomasello was the 2016 Big Ten champ at 125 pounds while Clark ruled 133, but the Buckeye moved up a weight class and still sports an unblemished record this season.

It’s a new feeling for Clark (10-1) to enter a regular season match as an underdog on paper. He’s keenly aware he’ll have his hands full, especially while sporting a sleeve that goes over his left arm and rotator cuff.

“He’s ranked first now,” Clark said. “That’s what you’re trying to do all year long — you want to beat the guy who’s the best. He’s on a mission, but I’m on a mission of my own. It should be good.”

Iowa head coach Tom Brands has seen his star 125-pound senior Thomas Gilman go 2-1 against Tomasello. Clark says he’s always been a weight class above the smallest of Ohio State’s three top-ranked wrestlers until this week.

“It’s a little bit of a clash of styles, but both guys wrestle hard,” Brand said. “Tomasello is straight forward. Clark may be a little bit more scrambly [sic].

“We’ve got work to do to beat him. We’re about hard work.”

The Hawkeyes have not disclosed the details of Clark’s injury, and he indicated last week that he “dinged up” his shoulder after a 6-0 win at Purdue on Nov. 27. The three-time All-American admitted Tuesday that it was something he would simply have to manage until the end of the season.

“It’s not the easiest thing to deal with, but every competitor has injuries here and there,” Clark said. It’s a good toughness check.”

His 7-6 loss to Brock in Stillwater, Okla., started a rankings shakeup at 133 that continued this week. The first dual Clark missed due to injury was at South Dakota State, where former Iowa wrestler Seth Gross is currently ranked No. 2. Gross topped Brock on Sunday, sending the Cowboy down to No. 3 and bumping Clark to No. 4.

Regular season rankings are less of a concern to Clark than dropping the 14th match of his four-year career. Last Friday’s 19-4 technical fall of Penn State’s overmatched George Carpenter is more in line with where he wants his wrestling to be.

Iowa's Cory Clark, right, is the No. 4 seed at 133 pounds.

“It helps scoring a lot of points in front of a home crowd,” Clark said. “I haven’t really gotten too many opportunities to that this year. Going on the mat, that was the mission. It’s moving in the right direction and on to the next one.”

Iowa (7-2, 3-1) hosts Ohio State (8-0, 4-0) at 7 p.m. on Friday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.