Tyler Clark can guess what some wrestling fans might be thinking.
They’re probably thinking he’s bitter about the way his career is winding down. That he regrets his decision to transfer to Iowa, where he would likely be the fifth-ranked 133-pounder in the country if he wasn’t the second-best 133-pounder on his own team. That he wishes he never left Iowa State, where he was a two-time NCAA qualifier who could fit nicely at a weight where the Cyclones have yet to win a match this season in a dual.
Well, Clark isn’t bitter. He doesn’t like his role as a backup to fourth-ranked Tony Ramos, but he doesn’t regret transferring to Iowa, either.
“I’m happy with the decision I made when I came here,” Clark said Sunday. “I knew what I was getting into and I don’t think I’d be the wrestler I am now if I hadn’t come here.”
Clark is 17-3 this season. Two of his losses came against Ramos. Another was against No. 5 B.J. Futrell of Illinois. He also notched victories against wrestlers currently ranked sixth, 10th and 11th at 133.
But there’s no room for him in a lineup that features NCAA champion Matt McDonough at 125, Ramos at 133 and two-time all-American Montell Marion at 141.
“Here, it’s a whole different level than anywhere I’ve seen,” Clark said. “The coaches here know how to make you push past barriers and build your toughness and strength. (Iowa coach Tom Brands) talks about that on the mat and that correlates to life battles.”
Clark’s relationship with Brands hasn’t always been a smooth one. Both admitted they butted heads in 2009 after Clark transferred to Iowa in the wake of Iowa State coach Cael Sanderson’s departure for Penn State.
“My first year here, I wasn’t used to it — the direct, head-on battles, the direct conversation — and I think it clashed with me at first because I was used to more of a passive, laid-back style,” Clark said. “We clashed there, and I came in thinking I knew everything — a lot of people do. That’s the big thing I’ve learned — I don’t know everything and I’m never going to. (Realizing that) gives you an opportunity to learn something new every day.”
Brands said Clark is the type who “will do whatever you ask” now. The senior from Bettendorf will leave Iowa with a degree in finance and accounting. He hopes to one day start his own youth wrestling club.
But for now, his focus is continuing to prep McDonough, Ramos and Marion for individual title runs and remain prepared in case he’s needed in an emergency.
“The thing I tell Tyler Clark all the time is, ‘You’re going to be successful in life, no matter what you do,’<TH>” Brands said. “He’s very smart, he’s very capable, he’s a people person, people like him.
“I don’t think it’s been easy on him, but I think he’s been a very good role player in a role he does not embrace because I know that he believes he can win.”