By: Christian Rodriguez
The Sacred Heart University wrestling team hosted Brown University for their last home contests of the season on Feb. 10. Seven seniors were honored before the match in what is head coach John Clark’s first season in charge.
Clark came to Sacred Heart with lots of experience. He was a coach at Stanford University and Lehigh University, and he spent six years as the head assistant coach for Brown.
Prior to his career as a coach, he was a successful student athlete. Clark was a two-time All-American selection at Ohio State University and qualified for the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament in each of his years with the Buckeyes.
“Both coach Clark and assistant coach [Stephen] Jarrell have been nothing but great,” said senior John Hartnett. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen two guys who are more involved in this building than they are. They’re helping the team grow even more.”
The adjustment between the athletes and new coaching staff has been smooth. The athletes praised the dedication and hard work the coaching staff have put in during their first season at the university.
“The new coaching staff has done a really great job with the kids on the team, so moving forward Sacred Heart is going to definitely benefit from John and Stephen,” said senior Paul Klee.
Although Klee’s time at Sacred Heart hasn’t been as long as that of the other seniors, there were moments that stood out for him. This is his second year at Sacred Heart, previously attending Holyoke Community College and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“This season I wrestled the number two ranked kid in the country. I was winning in the third period and ended up losing a close one,” said Klee. “Last year, I pinned a nationally ranked opponent in the first period. Those were definitely the two moments that stood out for me here at Sacred Heart.”
The seniors’ time at Sacred Heart have called for big time plays and against tough opponents at the mat.
“Our win against the Virginia Military Institute stood out for me because it came down to my match at the end, and it was the match that we needed to win the whole duel. Taking down a national champion was pretty cool,” said Hartnett.
There is a big freshman class, and the seniors have provided insightful leadership, which is key for any team. The mutual praise between the team also goes back to the seniors for Clark.
He has seen the seniors improve throughout the season and hopes to see the same from the freshman student athletes throughout their four years at Sacred Heart.
“We’ve been very fortunate with the seniors, and their leadership has been phenomenal,” said Clark. “We’re a big team, with 26 student athletes on the team, and the seniors really have done a great job providing leadership and will hopefully get passed on to the younger kids on the team.”
The next match for the Pioneers will take place at Franklin & Marshall College on Saturday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m.