Whitehall-Coplay Press

Monday, May 27, 2019
Press photo by Don HerbKai Clark was just short of making the regional tournament. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_ Press photo by Don HerbKai Clark was just short of making the regional tournament. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_
Press photo by Don HerbTy Cunningham wrestlers during last week’s district tournament at LHS. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_ Press photo by Don HerbTy Cunningham wrestlers during last week’s district tournament at LHS. Copyright - Don Herb 2017_

Clark just misses regional berth

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 by Steve andres Special to the Press in Sports

Last weekend’s District XI 3A Individual Wrestling Championship found Whitehall on the verge of getting a wrestler into the regional round as Kai Clark led a strong Zephyr contingent at arguably the state’s toughest district tournament.

Clark won his first match by fall over Liberty’s Nicholas Santiago, setting up a tough match against Nazareth’s Jake Dressler. Clark lost to the eventual third-place finisher 8-1, placing him in the consolation bracket. Clark stormed back with two pins, the first against Freedom’s Chris Jurado, and followed that with a pin against Brandin Reber, propelling him into a possible third-place bout if he could get by Bangor’s Paul Mastrogiavanni. It was a close match, but the Slater prevailed 8-5, sending Clark into the 5-6 match and a chance to advance to regionals with a victory.

Clark once again found himself in a close match. He lost by three points for the second consecutive match, falling to Stroudsburg’s Andrew Schneider 5-2.

His sixth-place finish, one of the best district performances by a Zephyr is the last couple of years, capped an outstanding season for the junior who finished 21-8 on the year.

Clark’s ability to win multiple matches at the D-11 tourney was matched by a number of Whitehall wrestlers. The team’s strong showing at the tourney paved the way for a twelfth-place finish as Whitehall ended the weekend with 54.0 points. Northampton won the 3A tourney with 256.5 points.

Also getting multiple wins were Johnny Colon at 113 (two falls), Xavier Arner at 126 (fall, major decision), Aiden Toussaint at 138 (fall, forfeit), and Izak Bright at 220 (two decisions).

Head coach Tim Cunningham knows how tough the competition is when tournament season rolls around, and while this postseason produced some better results that in that last couple of years, he still has their focus on taking that next step.

“ … Our goal is and always will be to place guys in districts and regionals to advance to states,” said Cunningham. “We did not reach that goal once again and have a lot of work to do this offseason if we want to improve in our postseason wrestling. The only way to make these improvements necessary is to put in the work in the offseason.

“We need to get stronger and also develop better mat awareness and wrestling IQ, and in order for this to happen we need a higher rate of attendance in the offseason with our lifting program, open rooms, and club wrestling.”

Cunningham knows it will take a lot of dedication, and with the work that they put in this season, that should help put them on the right track.

“I am extremely proud of the improvement and hard work of our guys this season and respect every one of the wrestlers that made it through the season during the rough times and handling adversity,” said Cunningham. “Very few athletes can make it as wrestlers here at Whitehall and the athletes that work through the grind mentally and physically become better people because of the sport and what they learn from the sport.

“It is the one sport here at Whitehall where we compete against the top teams in the state and country with our schedule that includes these teams in dual meets and the individual tournaments we enter throughout the season. It takes a lot of character from all of our wrestlers to go out and compete against the best in the country, at times getting knocked down, but always coming back to practice to make the improvements necessary to compete with the best.”

With that willingness to forge ahead in a sport that requires a lot of sweat and sacrifice as the backdrop, Cunningham envisions a positive outlook for the future.

“Our next step is to get to the point where we can be competitive against the best teams and in the tournaments, which will take a lot of work in the offseason,” said Cunningham. “I believe we have a few core guys that want to compete against the best and hopefully the rest of the guys will follow these guys and put in the time this offseason.”