CLAWSON — Following the end of the football season his junior year, Clawson High’s Nick Thousand headed to his first wrestling practice.
“After football, I was recruited to the team and decided to try it out. I found out I was pretty good at it. Last year, I went to regionals,” Thousand said Jan. 16 during a break from practice.
In many ways, Thousand personifies Clawson wrestling and the formula that has helped build it into one of the most competitive programs in the area.
This is coach Keil Jorgensen’s fifth season leading the team. In that time, he’s taken a program that was often canceled due to lack of numbers and turned it into a perennial title contender.
This year, the Trojans have won the Spartan Classic tournament hosted by Warren Fitzgerald and the Imlay City Tournament. When the postseason approaches, Clawson will be looking to win its fourth straight district title. It had been more than 30 years since Clawson won a district before the coach’s arrival.
“He’s great, he’s hard, but he knows what he’s doing. He’s been wrestling ever since he was a little kid, so I know I can trust him on the moves he’s teaching us and stuff,” Thousand said.
The heavyweight added that Jorgensen has helped cultivate a confidence and calmness.
“We try to keep our heads clear and our heads high. … If we didn’t have him, we’d probably be a mess by now,” Thousand said with a laugh.
At press time, Clawson was 12-4 overall and 2-2 in the Macomb Area Conference Gold Division. Both losses were within a match or two swing.
Jorgensen said experience is one of his team’s biggest strength.
“That’s the one thing about our lineup. We have young guys in it, but veterans spread throughout it, which doesn’t give many teams the opportunity to gain momentum during a dual,” the coach said.
The Trojans have seven starters back from last season and are led by seniors Wyatt Remillard (22-7 overall), Joe Pizzo (20-8) and Thousand (24-7).
Jorgensen said he had hoped the program would have come this far in his five years here, but many factors go into it.
“That was the goal, to get to this level, but to put pressure on a young program and younger kids at this level doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “I just want to help them along the way, get them to compete, have fun and work together.”
Jorgensen’s formula for success is fairly simple.
“Overall, I just think that we have to come in here and work hard — be independent and be driven,” he said. “Hard work pays off, as they say. It’s definitely true.”