Archive for Thursday, January 11, 2007

Five-year engagement

January 11, 2007

The opportunity to earn a varsity letter wasn't what hooked Samantha Clark on wrestling.

Neither was the sight of a room full of athletic boys preparing to become state champions.

Senior manager Samantha Clark and her parents, Dennis and Cheryl Clark, are recognized during the Senior Night ceremony on Thursday at LHS.

Senior manager Samantha Clark and her parents, Dennis and Cheryl Clark, are recognized during the Senior Night ceremony on Thursday at LHS.

Instead, it was the smell.

Five years since her introduction to the sport as an eighth-grader at Lansing Middle School, Clark - now a Lansing High senior - continues to follow her nose to the practice room five days a week as the team's head manager.

"If you've ever smelled a new wrestling mat, it just brings back so many memories of taking that first whiff," she says. "It's so exciting."

The smell may have been the hook, but the people she deals with were the line and sinker that kept her around the Lansing program for five years.

"It's a sense of family for me," Clark says of the camaraderie on the wrestling team. "These guys are like brothers to me. I know they'll have my back if I need them. And Mr. Averill, I look up to him in so many ways, and all the coaches for that matter. It's like our own little family."

During her time with the program, Clark's face has been as recognizable at practices and tournaments as those of state champions Kyle Buehler and Kyle Grape and coach Ron Averill.

At practice she can be found handling organizational duties or cleaning mats. At tournaments she's almost always camped out next to the coaches while keeping score of matches.

Keeping score might not seem like a big deal considering tournaments have official score keepers, but Clark said her score book has been used numerous times to correct mistakes on the scoreboard. Her accurate recording makes sure Lansing wrestlers receive the proper outcome of their matches.

"If the score is wrong, they don't go to the refs. They come to us," Clark says. "Mr. Averill will be like, 'Samantha, is the score right? Is the score right?' And then they take it to the tables.

"It's happened a few times actually where the scores will be off, not by a whole lot of points, but just enough. And they'll stop it. Mr. Averill has taken the score book from me and checked it."

Says Averill: "She's more or less my right arm when it comes to that stuff. I told her this year she's my head manager, and it's up to her to make sure everything's organized and running smoothly. If there's a problem, I'm going to her. And if things are going well, I'm going to pat her on the back."

Other manager's duties include being the first to arrive and the last to leave when the team goes on the road for tournaments. Clark usually arrives at LHS at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings to help load the bus. After a long day at a tournament she often doesn't get home until midnight or later.

That sort of commitment makes headlines for wrestlers, but managers mostly operate behind the scenes. Even so, Lansing's coaches and wrestlers always have been appreciative of her work, Clark says.

In fact, Clark says the most rewarding part of her job is 'having the guys come up to me and say 'hey, you should be manager again. Really think about it. And Mr. Averill tells me 'you do a really good job. You're like a daughter to me.' It's just a really good feeling to know that they do look at you in that way."

As Clark's time at Lansing nears its end, Averill says he doesn't want to lose his long-time manager.

"We've had a long run together and I know we're going to miss her next year," he sayd. "I really appreciate the things that she's doing for us and I'm glad that I have her for this year."

On Thursday night Clark was recognized alongside Buehler, Grape, Scott Keller and Brad Zink on Senior Night at Lansing's home wrestling double-dual with Silver Lake and Santa Fe Trail. Just like the guys, it was her final home appearance with the LHS wrestling team. Clark admits it was an emotional evening.

"I was shaking, and I was really nervous," she said. "I didn't cry like I thought I would, but I'm going to miss it."

The tears, she says, will flow at the state tournament in late February when she keeps score of her final matches as a high school manager.

"I'm going to be a mess at state," Clark says. "I've gone all four years, so it's going to be a mess for me. I'm really going to miss it."

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