Kyle Clark is one of the most accomplished members of Antioch High’s football and wrestling squads, but a certain accomplishment off the mat might be his most impressive.
Following Clark’s second year at Antioch, his family moved to Oregon, forcing him to miss the Panthers’ 2010 football season. But when he learned that his new school wouldn’t let him participate in wrestling, a sport in which Clark has a genuine future beyond high school, he decided to move back to Antioch.
That’s where Clark, now a senior competing in the 220-pound class, has remained for more than a year, living with folks such as friend of the family Mike Barron while his family remains a state away. “He’s been struggling a lot, living with different people,” said senior teammate and friend Dylan Guerrero. “I think he’s actually gotten stronger. It’s been hard on him but he’s been fighting through it, making the best out of it, and doing pretty good.”
Clark doesn’t disagree. “Since I haven’t been living with (my parents), I think I have done better,” he said. “I miss my family and I have had to adjust, but I also try a lot harder.”
The challenges Clark has faced this season aren’t limited to separation from family. At this time during his junior season, the wrestler had around 50 matches under his belt. By early February, only 17. A shoulder injury he suffered earlier in the year and recently re-injured in a big match is belied by his sterling 15-2 record midway through the season.
“It’s getting a lot better,” Clark said. “I just seem to keep injuring it again. Right now I’m just taking it easy, trying to heal.”
Clark’s nagging shoulder injury has kept him from performing against some of the better competition in the area. There’s no denying, however, that he’s one of the better wrestlers in the area – no small achievement given his lack of background in the sport.
Clark first stepped onto Antioch’s campus with no wrestling experience. He took up the sport only because his football coach told him it would make him better on the gridiron. Now Clark readily admits to being more serious about wrestling, mostly because he’s a lot better on the mat. “Some people have natural talent and others take time to develop,” Guerrero said. “In Kyle’s freshman year, he had that natural talent. He started out good as a freshman and he’s only gotten better.”
As of now, Clark’s plan is to wrestle and play football at a junior college before transferring to a four-year school. The top school on his wish list is Oregon, which would allow him to live closer to his family.
When not wrestling or playing football, Clark is a fan of doing anything that keeps him active and away from staying stuck at the house. “I have a 10-speed that I ride around town,” he said. “I like hiking, camping, hanging out with friends, doing stuff outdoors. Basically, I really don’t like just sitting around inside and playing video games.”
Given the impermanence of his living situation, no one would blame Clark for going into a shell. But his friends and teammates said he has never done that – in football, wrestling or any other part of his life.
“Kyle is one of the more respectable guys in school both in and out of sports,” Guerrero said. “He’s like a brother to me. Even though we don’t talk every day, I’ve always felt comfortable around him. He’s kind of like a role model to me.”