Clarke welcomes summer stylings
Fargo, N.D., doesn't rank very high on a list of the summer's most popular vacation destinations, and rarely does North Dakota's largest city elicit the term "breathtaking."
That's how Eudora senior Travis Clarke described his recent trip, however. Clarke could only look on in awe when he first stumbled into the 25-mat freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling championships last month in Fargo.
Clarke was one of the Cardinals' best wrestlers last winter, and he spent the summer trying to get even better, wrestling first in Kansas and later in North Dakota in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman disciplines.
"It was a blast," Clarke said. "It's a great experience and you see the best kids. Some of those kids, you watch them and they just manhandle people. They look like they're unstoppable."
Clarke wasn't unstoppable at the event. He had to wrestle well at the Kansas qualifier to advance, but won one of five matches in North Dakota. He said the experience will go along way toward making him unstoppable back on the high school mats, however -- both the experience in the different wrestling disciplines and that which he picked up butting heads with the nation's finest competition.
Typical high school wrestling is classified as folk style. It differs marginally from freestyle and drastically from Greco-Roman.
Clarke said the freestyle matches were easy to adapt for, the changes not extending beyond a few holding and scoring technicalities. Greco-Roman, meanwhile, forbids competitors from even touching an opponent below the waist.
"It's pretty much all upper body," he said. "You don't shoot in on the legs. It's all throws. On the mat you can try to squeeze their ribs.
"When I started with it last year it was quite a bit different for me."
It was Clarke's first trip to the national tournament, but his second year wrestling in the summer program. After one year, the positive results were pretty obvious. He went 22-22 wrestling as a sophomore, then qualified for state for the first time last season, piling up a 39-12 record.
Clarke is spending the waning days of his summer vacation gearing up for football. As a running back, he led last year's Cardinals with 1,671 yards on the ground and 20 touchdowns.
Nevertheless, he said his future lies in wrestling.
"I plan on wrestling in college," he said. "I'm hoping this will open up my options and get me more recognition.
"I love football and I'd probably do it if I were bigger. It was a pretty easy decision though since I'm 5-foot-6, 140 pounds."