High-school wrestling has become famous for the level of intensity and seriousness its participants convey.
Brandan Clark, however, seeks to incorporate another emotion into the sport.
“It makes me feel good to put a smile on someone else’s face,” the standout Methacton alumnus said. “You can’t be successful without being happy. It’s the power of a smile.”
Clark will have the opportunity this winter to put that mindset into practice. The recent Kutztown University mat graduate takes over the Phoenixville High School wrestling team as its new head coach.
Clark was approved by the Phoenixville school board at its July 18 meeting. He learned of the opening after seeing a listing for it on the District One website.
“I was kind of hooked,” he said.
Clark comes into the Phantom program after serving his brother, Brad Clark, on the Pottstown High staff this past year. But he laid the foundation for this career move during a stellar tenure at Kutztown following his 2011 high-school graduation.
“He is a natural-born leader,” Clark’s head coach at Kutztown, Robert Fischer, said in a statement. “His leadership skills were almost immediately evident to me in the first few weeks of practice his first year at Kutztown. He is the type of person who is concerned about the people he is working with.”
Clark replaces Alec Bown, the program’s head coach the past three years. During Bown’s tenure, Phoenixville was 14-40 overall (4-19 in the Pioneer Athletic Conference), and it is coming off a 3-11 overall season in 2016-17 (2-3 in PAC’s Frontier Division).
At Pottstown, Brandan meshed with his brother and assistants John Armato, Tom Daniels and Nick Wade to finish 9-10 on the year. That showing was highlighted by a 4-1 record in the PAC’s Frontier Division — the first season the circuit’s schools were arranged in a two-division format.
“Brandan’s skill set, ability to teach and passion for wrestling will help lead our program forward,” Phoenixville athletic director Matt Gionta noted. “This is an exciting time for the Phoenixville wrestling community, and we look forward to building a program that can compete in the Pioneer Athletic Conference and District One.”
Brandan followed Brad in achieving a high degree of success in Methacton’s storied mat program. He amassed a career mark of 145-29, highlighted by a senior campaign that saw him go 44-4 and finish second in the PIAA Class AAA’s 215-pound weight class — his second state-level appearance.
“Brandan’s got the right personality,” Brad said. “As an assistant coach, he led by example. As a competitor, he was always working. That’s the motivation he takes into coaching.”
At Kutztown, Clark was a two-time NCAA Division II Tournament qualifier and all-Pennsylvania State Athletics Conference (PSAC) second team his senior season. His leadership abilities were evidenced by his being named the Golden Bears’ team captain three years.
“Brandan not only helps the student-athletes with wrestling skills,” Fischer noted, “but he mentors them in all aspects of their lives. Student-athletes know they can count on Brandan to be there for them whatever the problem may be.
“This is extremely important to me as a coach. I want surround myself with people who truly care about the people around them. Brandan is absolutely that kind of person,”
His one year as a Pottstown assistant proved invaluable to Brandan’s coaching development.
“It was a very good learning experience, dealing with the behind-the-scenes stuff,” he said. “An assistant coach sees what goes into running a program … the weigh-ins, the daily schedules.”
The whole package was sufficient to sell Clark with Phoenixville’s administration.
“After five minutes in the room with Brandan Clark, I knew that we had someone special,” Dr. Craig Parkinson, Phoenixville High’s principal, said in a statement. “The passion, excitement and knowledge that he brings on a daily basis is contagious and will be embraced by our student-athletes.
“I truly feel that we have a coach who will have an immediate impact with his depth of knowledge and passion for the sport,” he went on. “What I found to be most encouraging is how Brandan lit up when talking about helping his student-athletes excel and reach their full potential on and off the mat. He wants the skills that he and his staff teach to the student-athletes to be applicable in their everyday life.”
Clark spoke highly of the situation he enters at Phoenixville, with its middle-school and youth programs working in tandem with the high school.
“The youth in the programs are doing a great job,” he observed. “They work extremely hard and feed off that energy. The kids want to get better — they push each other.”
He’s encouraged by reports of the program being bolstered by estimates of 20 to 27 freshmen in the system.
“Obviously, they’re doing an excellent job,” Clark said. “Numbers are a huge thing. You can’t have a successful high-school team without youth.”
And the hope Brandan can ratchet Phoenixville wrestling up to a higher level is already evident.
“Phoenixville has been known as a wrestling town since I can remember,” Dr. Parkinson said, “and under Coach Clark’s leadership, we are looking forward to restoring the program’s tradition of success.”
As for any tension when the brothers’ teams face off in their PAC dual …
“I think the best thing about our relationship,” Brad said, “we both take it seriously, but at the end of the day it’s all the same. That will be fun.
“He always wanted to be a coach, and Phoenixville gave him a chance. I think he’s ready for it.”