Jon Clark isn't one to back down from a challenge.
The senior for the Bexley High School wrestling team gets that resolve from being an undersized offensive lineman on back-to-back MSL-Ohio Division championship football teams.
However, wrestling is the sport that Clark loves. The one-on-one battles fuel his competitive juices, and he gets to go against athletes his own size.
"Football really helps wrestling," said Clark, who was 13-2 before Bexley faced North Union on Jan. 31. "When you are used to blocking guys who are a lot bigger, I feel like I have an advantage when guys are my size.
"You have to stay lower than your opponent when you are on the offensive line, and you have to stay low in your wrestling stance. You have to stay low when you take on guys twice your size."
Clark was honorable mention all-league in football last fall. The mention brings a smile to the face of wrestling coach Chris Bragg.
"That's all you need to know about Jon," said Bragg, who also is a football coach at the middle school. "He's a 160-pound kid playing on the offensive line of a league championship football team. He has the heart of a champion. I wish I had 1,000 kids like Jon."
Clark has been sidelined for much of the wrestling season. He suffered an injury to his right shoulder Dec. 2, the day before the Lions opened the season in the Tony Pizzurro Memorial Classic at DeSales.
On Jan. 21, he tweaked his back on the receiving end of a bear hug against West Jefferson's Josh Doherty in the 160 final of the Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational at Jonathan Alder. Clark lost the match 16-10.
As a precaution, he was held out of the Division II state team tournament Jan. 25 at Upper Sandusky and the Mount Gilead Duals on Jan. 28. In the team tournament, the third-seeded Lions defeated sixth-seeded Hartley 35-31 in the second round of Region 14-A action before losing to second-seeded Upper Sandusky 48-18.
Bexley won the Mount Gilead Duals, going 4-0.
"My shoulder is close to 100 percent now, but we're holding (me) out (of) a few matches because of my back," Clark said. "We wanted to make sure I was healthy for the league meet and the postseason."
The Lions compete in the MSL-Ohio tournament Saturday, Feb. 4, at London. They are looking for their first team title since 1998.
Last season, Bexley was third (218.5 points) behind Whitehall (271) and West Jefferson (239).
"We have been fighting for this for a long time," Clark said. "We were third last year and fourth the year before. We beat West Jefferson (286.5-237.5) in the Jonathan Alder tournament, so that gives us more confidence."
Clark was a Division II district alternate at 145 last season after placing fifth at sectional. He is expected to drop to 152 for this postseason, which begins Feb. 25 in a sectional at Whitehall.
"I feel more comfortable at a lower weight, and I won't lose my strength," Clark said. "I think that gives me a better shot of going further in sectional and district."
Girls swim team ties
for third in MSL meet
Annie Politi placed in the top four in two individual events to lead the girls swimming and diving team in the MSL meet Jan. 28 at Columbus Academy.
Politi was third in the 100-yard breaststroke (1 minute, 12.72 seconds) and fourth in the 100 butterfly (1:06.41) as the Lions tied Liberty Union for third (151) of nine teams behind Academy (398) and Grandview (275).
Politi also was on two fourth-place relays. She joined Alexis Turner, Ailbhe McCann and Libby Brown on the 200 medley relay (2:09.15) and Lili Harding, Frieda Liu and Rayne Wilson on the 400 freestyle relay (4:21.85).
Wilson also was fourth in the 500 free (6:11.09).
The boys finished fifth (117) of seven teams behind champion Academy (421).
Wade Randle, Jay Ziegler, John Niermeyer and Aaron Rothchild were on the third-place 200 free relay (1:44.39). The 400 free relay of Casey Spangler, David Tugend, Ghozaly Ghiandi and Jack Zwick was fourth (4:27.6).
Kroos leading boys
Simon Kroos averaged 20.8 points and made 15 3-pointers in the previous four games before the boys basketball team played Hartley on Jan. 30.
The 6-3 senior scored 18 points with three 3s as Bexley lost to Whitehall 60-54 on Jan. 28 to fall to 6-9 overall and 3-4 in the MSL-Ohio. Tommy Bruning added 14 points.
Kroos had 20 points with four 3s in a 65-51 loss to Logan Elm on Jan. 17. He had 24 points with three 3s in a 66-55 win over Circleville on Jan. 20 and 21 points with five 3s in a 64-53 loss to Wellington on Jan. 21.