As a graduating wrestling standout and a 2016 Athletics Hall of Fame inductee from Northern State University, Eddie Clark said he had some thoughts on how to run a program when he graduated in 1989.
“I had been around winning programs my whole life and thought I knew how it worked,” he said in a recent interview with SVI. “Then I walk into Wall, South Dakota which is about the size of Cokeville and seven kids show up and I think oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?”
By the end of that first season of coaching, Clark’s program had 20 wrestlers. After speaking with mentor Bob Hirsch, he knew that growth was key.
“‘You gotta grow it,’ he said to me,” Clark remembered. “You gotta do well here to get the next one. I wanted to keep building and then move on. Build a team up in three years and move on to the next one. The funny thing is, 25 years ago we were supposed to be in Star Valley for three years and move on but we loved it so we’re still here.”
Along the way, his wife Kristi and his two sons, Trevor and Trent, have all been key parts of the wrestling community.
During that time the Braves have continued a strong winning tradition but with Clark’s methods. The consistency has been incredible. In 24 previous seasons the Braves have finished in the top-three of the State tournament 22 times. Star Valley has placed in the top three of their class, which has been 3A and 4A during that time, the past 14 seasons. Mixed in are 11 state championships and seven runner-up finishes.
This past weekend the home Star Valley wrestling tournament, renamed the Braves Brawl some 16 years ago, was the setting of Coach Clark’s 600th career dual victory. 600 times his team has lined up across from another squad and been the better program.
“I didn’t pay much attention to this type of thing and then a few years back I was nominated for an award and started looking at some of the coaches who had reached 600 and thought that would be a cool group of people to join,” Clark told SVI. “We talk to the kids about setting goals and I decided that would be one of mine. Personally I don’t have too many but I’m excited about reaching this one.”
The number is just dual victories not tournament or bracketed results. A few of them did take place back in South Dakota and in Kansas where Clark coached prior to coming to Wyoming.
“We didn’t do a lot of that back there,” he laughed. “The giant majority are here, about 500 of them. It’s a neat thing. But nobody does it alone. Coach Adam Guild was with me for more than 500 of those. Coach Patterson about 400 and Coach Parry about 250. And we’ve had great kids along the way.”
Now looking back at those early days in Wall, he offered some advice to his younger self and others.
“This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon,” he said “A wrestling season is like a school year. We’re taking our first quiz. Next weekend we’re taking another one. At the end is the final exam and you want to be ready. It’s about growing the kids as athletes and as young men and showing the young men and now young women what wrestling offers. With the unique demands and discipline, wrestling grows people in different ways and it’s the best thing that can be offered to kids.”
With that kind of outlook, Star Valley can only hope for 600 more. Congratulations Coach Clark.