Unlike several of his teammates, Tuscarora veteran wrestler Kooper Clark is healthy enough to compete on the mat these days.
He proved that in Monday's trimatch, gutting out an 18-9 win over Catoctin's Nicholas Veronie in the 145-pound class and pinning Century's Elijah Woods in the 138-pound bout.
But Clark's got remnants from his own recent injury.
"I have six screws, a plate and a Ziptight in my ankle," said Clark, whose team beat Catoctin 52-21 after falling to Century 45-31. "A lot of hardware."
In late August, Clark broke the tibia and fibula in his left ankle, a setback that caused him to miss his entire senior season as a linebacker for Tuscarora's football team.
He also missed about three weeks in wrestling, and the ankle injury has hampered him since returning to the mat.
"I haven't been able to run, so my conditioning isn't where I need it be and where I want it to be. So that's definitely a factor now," he said. "But once I'm cleared to run, it'll be a different story conditioning wise."
In the meantime, Clark has been looking to get early takedowns in matches to compensate for his less-than-peak stamina.
"Just being more aggressive to start the match helps me," he said.
He did that very thing against Catoctin's Veronie, taking a 12-5 lead into the third period. But the Tuscarora senior then had to take two blood timeouts.
"My nose has been bleeding all season," he said. "I guess I'll have to get it cauterized."
Clark has ambition. After failing to make the state tournament as a sophomore, thanks to a broken elbow, he broke through last season, going 1-2 at the Class 4A-3A state championships.
"Last year was a big monkey off my back going to the state tournament," he said. "So, I think I'm going to be a lot better this year."
He's now one of Tuscarora's most seasoned wrestlers, a far cry from the days when he moved to this area from Summerville, South Carolina, as a freshman. But even then, he was making progress.
"I'd say I got a good start because my partner was Vinny Catania, a very experienced upperclassman who helped me into the system," Clark said. "He kind of groomed me to be a leader on the team."
The Titans, who have a 3-3 dual record after Monday, can use all the veteran leadership they can get these days. Thanks to injuries, their lineup is missing Aidan St. Andrie (120), Benjamin Lockett (126), Tyson Thompson (160) and Matt Hopkins (220).
"We're missing four varsity guys, so we're kind of filling in and trying to do what we can do right now," Titans coach Trey Coates said.
With St. Andrie sidelined, the Titans plugged sophomore Jacob Lyons — who weighs 113 pounds — into the 120 spot against Catoctin. Trailing 4-3, Lyons got a pin with 1:08 left in the second period.
"He was down but not out," Coates said.
Lyons has only been wrestling for two years. As difficult as the sport is, he's made strides. And on Monday, he showed some resiliency.
"I tried a Peterson in the beginning, and it worked," he said. "So I just kept going for the leg, and it ended up working for me."
Tuscarora 52, Catoctin 21
106—Bell (C) won by forfeit; 113—Fuller (T) won by forfeit; 120—Lyons (T) pin Thompson, 2:52; 126—Double forfeit; 132—Qualls (T) pin Kovalcik, 4;28; 138—Keilholtz (C) won by forfeit; 145—Clark (T) maj. dec. Veronie, 18-9; 152—Mulligan (C) dec. Ta, 8-4; 160—Fields (C) pin Clouser, :54; 170—Dipita (T) pin Maze, :49; 182—Scott (T) won by forfeit; 195—Worsey (T) won by forfeit; 220—Fatt (T) won by forfeit; 285—Mallette (T) won by forfeit.
Century 45, Tuscarora 31
106—Hurst (C) won by forfeit; 113—Fuller (T) maj. dec. 12-0; 120—Cerventes (C) pin Lyons, :52; 126—Johnston (C) won by forfeit; 132—Qualls (T) pin Dohl, 2:15; 138—Clark (T) pin Woods, 2:00; 145—Hurst (C) won by forfeit; 152—Schuyler (C) dec. Ta, 5-2; 160—Ferguson (C) pin Clouser, 1:55; 170—Dipita (T) pin Harrel, 3:28; 182—Ellis (C) pin Scott, 1:16; 195—Fatt (T) won by forfeit; 220—Baultista (C) pin Worsey, :50; 285—Mallette (T) dec. Forsburg, 3-0.