DANVILLE, Va. – Tanner Clark didn't have the highest finish this past weekend among Garrett College wrestlers in Averett University's Cougar Open. Yet, Clark – all 214 pounds of him – may have had the most eye-opening performance as he claimed fifth place in the 285-pound class.
"The most impressive feat of the weekend was Tanner Clark's performance," said GC head coach John Chambers after Clark went 4-2 despite the odds.
"Every kid he wrestled he was giving up 60 or 70 pounds."
"My strategy going up against bigger kids is I have to be faster than them," said Clark. "Our wrestling program has gotten me into really good shape to wrestle those kids."
Clark – who generally gave up weight while wrestling at 220 pounds as a senior as Berkeley Springs (WV) High – said he's found collegiate wrestling to be "a pretty decent challenge because of the weight differential."
"I have to make sure I don't get caught underneath them," Clark said, referring to opposing wrestlers, adding, "I was pretty happy taking fifth against a lot of Division II and III teams."
Asked about being part of GC's first wrestling team, Clark said, "It's honestly amazing."
"It's a great feeling knowing I'm part of something that's new to the college and to be part of the first Maryland junior college wrestling team," said Clark.
While Clark's performance evoked memories of the mythical Rocky Balboa, Laker teammates Davy Mundey (165 pounds) and Jordan Day (157 pounds) were equally impressive. Both Mundey and Day posted 4-1 marks while finishing second and third, respectively, in their weight classes.
Mundey reached the 165-pound finals, where he dropped a hard-fought, 4-2 decision to undefeated Jared Lough of host Averett. Day lost in the semis but rebounded to win third place in his weight class.
"It was a great experience," Mundey said of the tournament. "I was really proud of myself that I was able to make it that far and represent my team. It just shows what we can do, including competing against four-year schools."
Mundey also said the GC experience has been exactly what he was seeking.
"It's been great. Our coaches have been really good and we've been working really hard," said Mundey.
"It was definitely tough," Day said of the tournament competition. "We battled our way through it and I think we had a pretty good performance as a team."
Day said he tried to learn from his semifinal loss heading into the third-place match.
"I got caught there in the first round [of the semifinals], but I kept clear-minded [after the loss]," said Day. "It [the loss] will just help me become a better wrestler, knowing I have a lot of improvement I can make."
As a team, GC finished with a 22-16 overall record and claimed eighth place out of 14 teams. The Lakers were the only two-year institution participating in the tournament.
"It was a big stepping stone for our program," said Chambers. "Taking on the four-years – the 'big boys' as I call them – and competing was an important step for us."
While the Lakers enjoyed good success at the Cougar Open, Chambers also said they discovered they still have some growing to do.
"What these kids have to get used to is the difference in strength level between high school and college wrestling," said Chambers.
The Lakers went 4-2 against Alderson Broaddus University wrestlers. GC will host AB on Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the first-ever home wrestling match for the Lakers.
"We'll be giving up two weight classes – we don't expect to have all classes filled until the end of November," said Chambers. "But we're anxious to have our first home match."