Clark, Netzler highlight Rams wrestling year
Senior Lilo Clark wrestles against Alta at the 4A state duals tournament. Clark took third at the 4A state tournament in his 195-lb. weight class. (Travis Barton/City Journals)
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After making their presence known at the 4A state tournament a year ago, Highland High School wrestlers Lilo Clark and Mason Netzler returned to finish in the top four.
Clark, a senior, finished in third place in the 195-lb. weight class to better his fifth-place performance of a year ago while Netzler, a senior, matched his 2016 finish by taking fourth in the heavyweight division.
“I was proud of myself, the match I lost, it was frustrating but it was a match I knew I left everything out there, so there’s not really regrets from it,” Clark said. “Placing higher is always nice and to come back from that first loss…it felt good, I was proud.”
Though Clark, who finished the season with a personal record of 52-5, lost in the semifinals, head coach Ted Sierer said what was most impressive was the way he bounced back from that loss with wrestlers sometimes giving up and dropping down to sixth place.
“He showed a lot of mental focus to be able to move past the loss and put together two really good matches,” Sierer said. Of Clark’s five matches at the state tournament, he went 4-1 with three pins, two of them after he lost.
Clark said it wasn’t difficult to retain his focus.
“For me it was just, ‘you know, I lost,’ it sucked for probably 10 minutes but after that it was pretty easy to move onto the next opponent, the next person who stood in my way of third, I guess,” Clark, a two-year team captain, said.
Known for his relentlessness and ability to wear opponents down, Clark carried a strong presence this season not only on the mat, but within his team as well.
Clark befriends freshmen as much as seniors, noted Sierer, and when someone like Clark has a successful season, the team tends to gravitate towards that.
“When you have a good personality and a big year like he had, the team gets behind that, he became the face of Highland wrestling this year,” Sierer said.
For Clark, that brings both joy and pressure.
“I can tell a lot of the underclassmen they look up to me and they really listen to me and they watch a lot of the things I do… there’s a lot of pressure with it but it’s a lot of fun,” said Clark, who after graduation plans to work for a year before serving an LDS mission.
Netzler finished a season where he battled through various injuries, including a concussion earlier in the season, with a 36-13 match record and a fourth-place finish.
“He’s never been fully healthy all year. He put together his best tournament of the year during the state tournament,” Sierer said.
Netzler lost in the second round only to turn around and pin two of his next three winning matches before eventually succumbing in the third-place match.
Sierer said wrestling is the type of sport that teaches kids how to overcome obstacles and adversity with the heavyweight wrestler proving to be an example of that.
“Sometimes you have to work through adverse conditions to achieve your goals and I think (for Netzler) that kind of came to light during the state tournament,” Sierer said.
Whether it was the team cheer for each wrestler or their investment in each wrestler’s match, Sierer felt members of the Rams wrestling truly enjoyed being around each other.
“That says a lot about these kids. It’s a real diverse set of kids that they came together for a common goal and that was to make Highland wrestling better,” he said. “It’s nice to see when teams develop that type of atmosphere.”
Sierer was proud of the progress the team made from November to February. With a solid group of underclassmen returning next year, he said the worst thing they could do now is nothing.
“If we can keep them all focused and keep them working towards goals over the spring and summer, we’ll be even better going into the fall than we are right now,” Sierer said.