Now, the East County community is helping the Panthers senior get to the National High School Wrestling Championship in Virginia Beach, Va.
Clark punched a ticket to Nationals – March 29 through April 1 – with his third-place finish at the California Interscholastic Federation meet, but he wasn’t sure if he could afford the cross-country trek.
The 220-pound grappler has been doing all he can, selling Jamba Juice at school and doing all types of fundraising. Clark is one of the few Bay Valley Athletic League wrestlers in recent memory to qualify for Nationals. No one from Antioch advanced that far since 2005, when Dominic Mutulo placed fourth in the 145-pound bracket at state.
“I was confident he was going to do it in the beginning of the year,” Panthers head coach Ben McCorriston said. “I was excited-slash-worried because of the amount of money that we have to raise.”
McCorriston said Clark is going for sure, as the coach has already put a significant amount of travel expenses on his credit card.
Several others have stepped up to help Clark out. The Red Caboose restaurant in Antioch hosted a spaghetti fundraiser Wednesday. On Monday from 5 to 9 p.m., the Straw Hat Pizza on 3001 Delta Fair Blvd. in Antioch will donate 25 percent of its proceeds to the wrestler’s efforts.
The Red Caboose owner Sheila White heard about Clark from McCorriston, who dines at the restaurant. She also found out that Clark’s grandmother is a close family friend. “We have a chance to send this kid to Nationals,” Clark said, “and then have coaches look at him and change his life.”
The wrestling community has also pitched in to help out one of its own. The Delta Wrestling Club, which serves as a feeder academy for BVAL rival Liberty High, has pledged some money. The Mt. Diablo Wrestling Association has done the same.
Clark has been surprised and touched by the outpouring of support.
“It means a lot, really it does,” Clark said. “I want to do my best to show everybody that they didn’t donate for no reason.”
But the trip transcends wrestling. After his family moved to Oregon in 2010, Clark opted to move back to Antioch soon after finding out that his new school wouldn’t let him participate in wrestling and football. Since then, he’s been living with classmates and family friends while attending school.
As graduation approaches, Clark wonders what his future holds. He’s hoping to continue wrestling at a college closer to his family, but hasn’t signed any paperwork yet. He’ll be networking with college coaches and scouts in Virginia, hoping for a scholarship or at least some direction.
“It’s been really cool,” said Clark. “All the coaches and staff at all the different schools are supporting me even though I’m not on the team. I hope it will lead to something bigger.”