Bellaire grad plays role in Clark’s mat success

T-L Photo/KIM NORTH
BELLAIRE GRADUATE Percy McGhee (right) talks with Zion Clark after a match at a tournament in Wheeling this past Sunday. Clark wrestles despite being born without legs.

T-L Photo/KIM NORTH BELLAIRE GRADUATE Percy McGhee (right) talks with Zion Clark after a match at a tournament in Wheeling this past Sunday. Clark wrestles despite being born without legs.

WHEELING — Percy McGhee was a three-sport athlete at Bellaire High school. He earned 12 varsity letters during his four years for the Big Reds, four each in cross country, track & field and wrestling.

However, the 2001 BHS graduate doesn’t even consider himself in the same class as one of his former students.

Zion Clark recently graduated from Massillon Washington High School where he wrestled for four years. He didn’t qualify for the state tournament, but he did win the admiration of everyone that watched him compete, which he does with no legs.

“Zion has been wrestling for us through the youth program,” McGhee, an assistant wrestling coach at Massillon Washington for the past six years, said. “He had a lot of lumps in the beginning. A lot of losses.”

McGhee said in 2015 the Ohio High School Athletic Association adopted some new rules that allowed Clark to compete at the high school level.

“Every period starts in the neutral position and not top or bottom,” he explained. “It is more advantageous for him.

“He develops a strategy. We stay away from the inside,” McGhee continued. “He has an awesome 2-on-1 tilt that is spectacular to watch.”

Clark and McGhee were in the Ohio Valley Sunday as Clark competed in the Viper Pit Open at WesBanco Arena.

“I don’t really think about my disabilities,” Clark said. “I go out and do this because I know I can. I find joy in doing it because it’s my favorite sport.”

Clark was born in Columbus in 1997. He had caudal regression syndrome which is a condition that affects the development of the lower half of the body. He was given up for adoption as a baby and bounced from foster home to foster home, from school to school.

Despite his disabilities, he didn’t let that deter him from competing in the sport that he has loved since he was two years old.

“Wrestling has changed my life to the point where when I come to an obstacle in my life, I instantly figure out a way to get past it and move on.”

McGhee had a tough time keeping his emotions in check when talking about Clark.

“Zion has tremendous mental awareness. He is very resilient and has persevered through a lot of things in his life,” McGhee noted. “He has went through adoptive care and now he has a mom. It’s a beautiful thing.”

McGhee said that if Clark was a normal person, he would probably weight around 190 pounds.

“He is as strong as an ox. His grip is very tight,” McGhee said. “He walks on his hands just about everywhere he goes. He’ll put his canvas gloves on and just go.

“I always joke with him that he’s a cheater because he is always working out when he is out walking around.”

During his senior year, Clark put together an impressive 33-15 record against mostly Division I high schools. The 88-pounder advanced to district tournament competition, but came up one win of qualifying for the state tournament.

However, his story, which someday will likely be made into a movie, doesn’t end there.

According to McGhee, Clark has been accepted into Otterbein University in suburban Columbus, as a candidate for the wrestling team.

“I’m really excited,” Clark said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to wrestle in college. It’s a life-time dream come true.”

Clark said he received a lot of interest from Arizona State, Penn State and Ashland University.

“It will be special being from Columbus,” Clark said. “It will be nice to be back home.”

McGhee said he can’t take all of the credit for Clark’s success because a lot of it is done by himself.

“He works out continually with guys from the Canton/Massillon area,” McGhee said. “He’s quite an athlete. Everyone that meets him loves him. He’s a great inspiration. He’s a special person.”

Indeed he is.

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