Remembering Coach Clark

Norm Althoff

Jeff Clark, assistant wrestling coach, passed away unexpectedly Nov, 27. He was a Kennedy graduate of 1996, and participated in wrestling and football all four years. He went to Wartburg College to wrestle. He had been a wrestling assistant coach since 2001 and had also been a wrestling coach at Harding Middle School. No official report was available at the time of press, but the cause of death may have been because of a blood clot in his lung.

The sudden death of Clark came unexpected by players, coaches, and faculty. “I couldn’t believe it [when I heard of Clark’s death]. I was in shock,” Luke Kremer, sr., said. Athletic Director Aaron Stecker added, “I felt like I was kicked in the gut, honestly. There were a lot of emotions. I felt deep sadness for the coaches. I was also angry because he was only 34 and I had a feeling of vulnerability. Anything like this could happen to anyone. I don’t know how the coaches are getting through it.” Clark hadn’t been feeling well for a couple weeks, but didn’t want to go to a doctor.

Clark was known as an intense coach that didn’t mess around. “I liked the intensity he brought to the program. He was one of those coaches that would be the first to tear you apart, but the first one to be excited for you,” Stecker said. His tough love made the guys want to wrestle harder, according to assistant coach Craig Mallicoat, who was also a very close friend to Clark. While he had a lot of fire in him about wrestling, he had a good heart, too. “He was hard on the outside, but you could definitely tell he had a good heart. He was strict. He was a good coach and wasn’t soft,” Kremer said.

For many of the wrestlers, they first got to know him while he spent some time as a wrestling coach for Harding Middle School. “He knew them more than just through Kennedy. He was one of the most liked coaches,” Mallicoat said.

The impact he left on the people that knew him is big. “This may sound goofy, but what I’m really going to miss about him was getting the random emails from him that would crack me up or make me say ‘really, Clark?’. In doing that, he was letting you know he was thinking about you. It got me through the day,” Stecker said.

There is also a learning experience from Clark’s death. “I kind of broke down [when I heard of his death]. There was a lot of anger. I was mad he didn’t go get it checked out. He hadn’t been feeling good for a couple weeks. If something doesn’t feel right, you need to get it checked out,” Mallicoat said.

The wrestlers will go out and keep on competing with Coach Clark’s words always in the back of their mind, pushing them to be the best, just as he would have wanted.