Clarke keeps brisk pace on mats


Even the holiday season couldn’t slow down the Clarke Rams on the wrestling mats. Clarke not only had its annual trip to Orlando, FL for the KSA Disney Duals Classic Tournament, just before Christmas, where the team had its best finish in six years with a 4-2 mark, the program also hosted a nine-team dual meet tournament on Dec. 27-28, with some of the Rams getting in eight matches over the two days.

With just 10 players returning and the roster filled out by underclassmen, the hope was for the early exposure to pay long-term dividends. “We’re going to wrestle at least 25 to 30 dual meet this year,” coach Milke Leonard said, noting the benefits they hold over tournaments for a young team. “That way everyone gets matches.”

Several of the Rams veterans have gotten out of the gates with strong starts, including seniors Joe Hoffman (126 pounds) and Enndy Nunez (220) and junior Tom Stobe (120). All three compete on the mats year-round, and Chavez, in particular, has been a tough opponent to face. He kicked off his senior campaign with a second-place finish at 220 pounds at the Long Beach Battle at the Beach on Dec. 1, and followed that up with an individual championship at the Sprig Gardner Tournament hosted by Calhoun and Mepham on Dec. 7-8. “He’s really coming into his own,” Leonard said, noting that Nunez, as well as Hoffman and Stobe, ran for the Clarke cross-country team in the fall. “I think that’s helped him, especially in the third periods of matches. He’s more aggressive.”

Hoffman, a three-year member of the team, was an All-Conference honoree as a cross-country runner, and on top of having great stamina, he displays strong technique on his feet when wrestling. Stobe also possesses a non-stop aggressiveness that he uses to push forward against opponents for six minutes every time he steps on the mat.

Junior Joe Truono, who can be penciled in the lineup at 152, 160 or even 170 pounds, and classmate Mike Urso (182) ran up 5-1 marks in Orlando, a trip paid for through the program’s tireless fundraising efforts. “It’s so good for team bonding and gives [the guys] a nice break from the hard season,” Leonard said, noting his wrestlers matched up with opponents from Wisconsin, Florida and Pennsylvania during the event. “We do fundraising all year, and [on the trip] everyone gets to know each other so quick.”

Senior Justin Eufemia, like Truono, is versatile and can wrestle in the same three weight classes ands is expected to continue making consistent contributions, while sophomore Tyler Constantine, a 115-pounder, is already turning heads. 

Clarke’s upcoming schedule includes the program’s annual Alumni Night on Jan. 9, as well as Senior Night on Jan. 18. Both dual meets are set to start at 7 p.m.