High School Sports

Developed confidence has been paramount for Ferndale’s Cleary, Klimp

When Mat Classic XXVII begins Friday morning, Feb. 20, wrestler’s confidence levels will be reaching all-time highs. It’s no secret strong performances are synonymous with fearless wrestling.

Beyond the technical aspect, raw strength and execution required to attain success, being in the right mindset is just as, if not more, crucial.

This hasn’t gotten lost with Ferndale juniors Braiden Klimp and Sam Cleary.

“Confidence is almost more important than the actual wrestling part,” Cleary said in a phone interview. “If you go in thinking, ‘I’m going to get my butt kicked,’ you will. A lot of it is mental, and that’s what I’ve learned the last two years, it’s mostly mental.”

Seven Ferndale wrestlers qualified for the Tacoma Dome’s Mat Classic XXVII with strong Class 3A Regional Tournament’s last week. Those included Broc Graves (106 pounds), Devon Bennett (120), Klimp (152), Taylor Bellefuielle (152), Ben Broselle (160), Cleary (182) and Patrick Condon (195).

Ferndale coach Caleb Schlack feels the group can put together a strong state tournament, and while all seven are talented, he’s arguably been most impressed with how much Klimp and Cleary have grown throughout the season to get where they are now — at the state’s pinnacle wrestling tournament two wins away from a state medal.

“It’s different for both of them,” said Schlack of how Klimp and Cleary have grown. “Last year Braiden started to figure it out. He really wanted to be a good wrestler. Sam screwed around a little more last year and this year he has really turned it on, realized he could be a good wrestler and has a lot more focus.”

But at the root of Cleary’s and Klimp’s improvement has been a wealthy increase of confidence.

Klimp was considered a solid wrestler who had a decent shot of reaching state coming into the season, but early success served as a launching pad for his impressive season.

“Since the beginning of the season my goal was to get to state,” Klimp said in a phone interview. “At first I didn’t expect to do this good at the beginning of the season, but the first week I went undefeated. Then I lost a couple, but it boosted my confidence, and I felt like I could stick with the better wrestlers.”

Klimp’s early success carried over to the Battle at the Border, where he placed third. Schlack could tell the strong showing had its effect.

“Battle at the Border he took third,” the Ferndale coach said. “I think he might have surprised himself in that regard, and his confidence went through the roof. He’s wrestled with a tough mindset.”

Klimp, a team captain, has improved his technique, too, and he’s provided great leadership within the wrestling room.

Like Klimp, Cleary used a strong tournament to get his season headed in the right direction, but it took the 182-pounder a little longer than Klimp to get going.

Cleary’s big break came in the Northwest Conference Tournament, where for the first time he reached a tournament final. Cleary lost to Anacortes’ Aaron Tisinger, who won a 2A regional title last week, but the confidence gained from wrestling in a final spurred the rest of Cleary’s season.

“I wrestled really good that weekend,” Cleary said. “I didn’t win, but it was great showing me I can do well and be a successful wrestler.”

What transpires at tournaments or in duals, though, is a byproduct of what takes place at practice, and Schlack said Cleary’s newfound willingness to get the most out of practice has been an integral piece to his success.

Ferndale prides itself in being one of the top conditioned teams in the state, and since Cleary began wrestling tougher opponents at practice he’s reaped the benefits.

“In practice, when you wrestle you want to beat up on guys,” Cleary said. “You feel good about yourself, but it doesn’t get you better when your wrestling JV kids.”

Cleary began working with Condon and Nate Slaton, and the increase in competition has made a world of difference.

Now already having reached their season goals, Klimp and Cleary find themselves coming up with a new objective for this weekend.

“I hope to place at state, and I just have to wrestle my hardest and not be scared and act like it’s just another match,” Klimp said.

“I really want to win my matches and wrestle my butt off,” Cleary said. “If I lose, I lose, but if I give it my all I won’t be down on myself.”