Cary High’s Parker Ragsdale and Will Clark have been well-schooled in Imp wrestling lore.
Jerry Winterton, who built a 540-3 regular-season dual-meet record in almost 30 years as the Cary wrestling coach, occasionally is on hand to mention how some former Imp state champion did a particular move and Cary’s former greats show up periodically to tell the current wrestlers about what the program meant to them and how they still are using the lessons they learned in the mat room.
Ragsdale and Clark are adding to that legacy under current coach Taylor Cummings.
Both Ragsdale, a 126-pound senior, and Clark, a 138-pound junior, are undefeated this season and currently are ranked No. 1 in their weight classes by retrorankings.com, a statewide online site that tracks high school wrestling.
Both finished third in their weight classes in the 2013 N.C. High School Athletic Association championships. Both have been overwhelming this season.
“I’m pretty pleased with most of my matches,” Clark said. “I could have done better in a few, but overall I’ve done pretty well.”
Clark has been wrestling for a long time. His father Ken Clark wrestled at Wilson High and later at Campbell University. Ken thought his son would enjoy wrestling and got Will started when he was about 8 years old.
The more Will has wrestled, the more the sport has appealed to him.
“Wrestling is a sport where being the most physically gifted doesn’t always matter,” Clark said. “In football, if you’re really fast or really big, you’ve got an advantage that it is hard to overcome.
“But wrestling is a sport where you have to work. The guy that works the hardest has the edge. If you want to win, you work harder. Wrestling is where work can overcome the physically gifted.”
Clark said there are no excuses. After losing 4-3 to East Gaston’s Jacob Grigg, the eventual state champion, in the 2013 state tournament, Clark asked himself if he was willing to work harder?
Cary’s former greats did.
“The wrestlers who come back and talk to us talk about going the extra mile,” Clark said. “Are you willing to go the extra mile? Are you going to work that hard.”
Clark thought about the extra mile a lot of recently. He usually doesn’t have much trouble keeping his weight in his division, but he said he loved to eat during the holidays.
He pushes himself with memories of how he felt after last year’s state tournament.
“I was glad I won the third-place match,” he said. “Going into the tournament I was so caught up in that I had to win, I had to do this or that, that I didn’t wrestle that well. Once I lost, I just went out and wrestled. It was probably the best I’ve ever wrestled.”
His goals are simple this year – go undefeated, win the state title, be named the most outstanding wrestler. After that, he wants to wrestle in college, be an all-American, win an NCAA championship.
To get there, he is willing to continue to work.