Nationally-ranked Kizhan Clarke has eyes set on national championship
Clarke’s victories against Navy and Binghamton hope to set him up for nationals
The nationally-ranked AU wrestler Kizhan Clarke (32-3) improved his stellar record on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, coming out on top in his matches against Navy and Binghamton. His 32 victories are the most wins of any wrestler in Division 1 this season.
Clarke, ranked seventh nationally in the 149-pound weight class, has his eyes set on a national championship after narrowly missing out on qualifying for an appearance at nationals last year, when he wrestled in the 157-pound division.
“My ultimate goal is to be a national champion,” Clarke said after his 7-3 decision over Navy’s Jon Park on Jan. 31. “First I gotta make it to nationals, that’s one of my biggest goals since I haven’t been to nationals yet. And I feel like to do that, I have to remind myself that I’m up there [competing] with the greatest guys when I put my mind to it.”
After AU’s 24-21 loss against Navy, Clarke acknowledged that despite his victory, he did not feel that he wrestled to his full potential that night.
“I feel like I just went in there too timid and scared, and I just have to remember to just be ruthless and know what I have when I push myself to my limits,” Clarke said. “I just wasn’t doing that today.”
Clarke appeared to take his own message to heart during a 18-15 victory on Feb. 1 over Binghamton, recording four quick takedowns in the first period against Matt Swanson en route to a 12-8 decision.
With a month left until the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships, Clarke acknowledged the need to remain loose, and not let the potential pressures of being a top-ten, nationally-ranked wrestler get to him.
“I do feel like there is a target on my back,” Clarke said. “It always puts a little bit of pressure on me and I feel that can kind of get to my head sometimes. And that’s why I wrestle matches like this where I wrestle like I’m trying to protect something.”
In order to qualify for nationals, Clarke will have to either win a qualifying bid at the EIWA Championships or receive an at-large bid. Last year at the EIWA conference championships, Clarke finished seventh, one spot out of the conference's six automatic qualifiers for nationals. This year, he is currently the highest-ranked wrestler in the EIWA, giving him a solid shot at earning one of those automatic qualifying bids next month and a trip to the national tournament.