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Kent State Tuscarawas Golden Eagles wrestler Zion Clark makes no excuses

Kent State Tuscarawas Golden Eagle Zion Clark wrestles an opponent.

Clint Datchuk

"No excuses."
Zion Clark lives by these two words. Born without legs, the Kent State University at Tuscarawas Golden Eagles wrestling phenomenon overcomes obstacles and gladly accepts challenges both on and off the mat every day with a contagious smile.
“The obstacles I face in wrestling prepare me for everyday life,” Clark said. “Wrestling teaches me patience and persistence.”
The 19-year-old was born in Columbus, Ohio, with a condition known as caudal regression syndrome, which impairs development of the lower half of the body. Given up for adoption as a baby, Clark was bounced around from foster home to foster home.
“It was not the ideal situation,” he said.
But Clark persevered, and wrestling became a life support.
“Wrestling opened a door for me when I was 7 years old,” Clark explained. “I remember that day like it was yesterday,” referring to the day he moved from an elementary school in North Canton to Massillon and was first introduced to the sport of wrestling.
While Clark admits he didn’t know what he was doing when it came to wrestling, he decided to give it a try.
“They just said go grab his legs and try to take him down. There’s no technique,” Clark said. “I thought it was the most fun thing in the world.”
Clark felt he had an upper hand against his young competitors because he walked on his hands and had greater arm strength.
Clark continued to wrestle at Massillon Washington High School, where as a freshman and sophomore he had no wins. As a junior the tide began to turn, and he started to win a few matches. By the end of his junior year, something just clicked.
“I started thinking about college, and I started training six to seven days a week,” he said. “I worked with a lot of great people, and I just kept winning.”
Word of Clark’s athletic talents soon spread throughout the wrestling world. “People started to recognize my name and that I was a force to recon with,” Clark said.
At the end of his high school career, he compiled an outstanding 33-15 record at Massillon. During this time another hurdle was overcome as Clark’s adoption by his mom Kimberly Hawkins was finalized.
For advice and guidance, Clark does not hesitate to reach out to family and friends. “Obviously my mom is the number-one person I go to,” he said. “When I know I need help, I ask for help.”
Clark credits his high school coach Gil Donahue with his success as a wrestler. “He pushed me to the point past exhaustion,” he explained. “And when I had mental breakdowns, he just talked me up, really got me going.”
Clark felt his coaches just wanted to see him succeed. “They don’t sugarcoat anything,” he said. “Wrestling is a cut-throat sport.”
The key to his success? Persistence, trial and error, and, of course, no excuses.
Clark explained the importance of the phrase "no excuses," which is largely tattooed across his back. During his senior year he was mismatched against an opponent who took fourth place in the state. In their match Clark’s opponent jumped over him and collided with his head.
“I took a hard hit to the face. My nose was bleeding. My eye was cut. I had to be taped up to keep going,” Clark explained. “I said to my coach, 'I can’t do this.'”
Donahue said, “You made it this far. You have to keep doing your job. Don’t give me any excuses.”
“I went back on the mat, and when he jumped over me again, I caught him in midair and put him down on the mat,” Clark said.
Clark went on to win the match, one of the most memorable of his high school career.
Clark’s love of wrestling inspired him to further his education and attend college. He is a freshman at Kent State Tuscarawas in New Philadelphia. “Wrestling in college, I just set my mind on that,” he said.
Clark is a member of the Kent State Tuscarawas Golden Eagles wrestling team and studies business management. “I look forward to going to my classes. It feels like home,” Clark said.
“We are very happy to have Zion here, both as a student and an athlete,” said Dr. Bradley Bielski, dean and chief administrative officer of Kent State Tuscarawas. “His determination and perseverance are inspirational.”

Published: December 21, 2017
New Article ID: 2017171219952