MARSHALL - John Clark has learned a few things throughout his 21 years as wrestling at Madison High School. One of the things he's learned is the recipe for success during a high school season: for the players to remain healthy and to avoid being sidelined due to COVID.
"We've got some seniors this year who are back with us who played other sports last spring because of COVID," Clark said. "We've got quite a few good kids this year. We're looking pretty good right now."
The Patriots finished fifth out of 13 teams at the Swain Invitational Nov. 20. Four Madison wrestlers earned top honors at the meet, as senior Alex Kerns won first place in the 220-pound division.
Three other Patriots earned second place honors in their respective weight classes: senior J.J. Calloway in the 195-pound division, senior Tacoma "Taco" Redick in the 126-pound division and junior Kyle Jamerson in the 160-pound division.
Clark said Redick has carried his nickname for years, as Clark has coached many of the Patriots wrestlers since they were in grade school.
"When I started coaching him back in youth league in about the fourth or fifth grade, that's what he told me his name was," Clark said. "I've called him that ever since."
According to the coach, who also serves as Madison's middle school wrestling coach, that experience has molded a strong camaraderie between the kids and the coach.
"The biggest thing is we've all been together for so long," Clark said. "Most of the kids have been with me and wrestling for me when I was coaching youth league. Some of them have been with me for seven or eight years or so. So, you've basically got seven or eight years with them, to where by the time they leave high school, you've been with them for the better part of their school career. Basically half of their school lives they spend with me wrestling."
The Patriots look to Kerns, Calloway, Redick and Jamerson as their leaders in the locker room, Clark said.
Kyle Jamerson is the brother of Cody Jamerson, who competed in the 2A state tournament last year.
"My brother's next in line," Cody Jamerson said July 1 after his loss in the state tournament. "So, don't close out on the Jamerson name just yet."
Sure enough, Kyle Jamerson has fulfilled his brother's word and emerged as a leader for the team, too, according to Clark.
"Kyle might be a junior, but he's real mature," he said. "He's really worked hard. He's went above and beyond and put in a lot of extra hard work and extracurricular activities with other school clubs and everything."
Clark said the program's success is the result of that hard work and an appetite for winning.
"I don't like losing," Clark said. "You have to work at it. The Lord blesses us. Believe it or not, it's not nothing I do. It's what God does. Trust me there."
The coach said the program will continue to build on its successes if it can avoid the injury bug.
"(We will continue performing well) if we can stay healthy - that's the key, staying healthy," Clark said. "No injuries, and avoid COVID."
The Patriots had road matches Dec. 2 at Polk and Dec. 4 at East Henderson.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Madison wrestling coach John Clark previews the 2021-22 season