If you saw him walking down the hallways at school, said North Central’s Mike Clute, you would never know he wrestled.
“I’m mellow off the mat. If you met me you’d say I’m a sissy,” he said.
He wasn’t even planning to wrestle in high school, until Indians coach Mike Ranieri saw the tiger within when Clute was a sophomore, told him he looked like a wrestler and asked him to give the sport a try.
Continuing with his story, Clute said, “I was not good at any sports so I was like, ‘Oh, I look like an athlete. I guess I’ll wrestle then.’”
The rest, as they say, is history.
Clute stamped himself as perhaps the best Greater Spokane League 152-pound wrestler this year and improved his season record to 25-4 by winning last weekend’s 3A subregional 152-pound weight class. He competes this weekend in Ellensburg for a berth at state.
He’s done it, essentially, with just three years of experience.
Clute dabbled with the sport in middle school and didn’t like it. Maybe it was because he had dislocated a shoulder, but he didn’t compete as a freshman. Since Ranieri beckoned, it’s been a non-stop endeavor.
“Mike’s first year of wrestling was when I got to NC,” said Ranieri. “But he’s a young man with a huge heart and commitment to the program. He’s gone to freestyle with me, camps, done weight training and hasn’t missed a practice in two years.”
The first two years, Clute was a work in progress. He finished sixth in district last year when the Indians were a surprising third-place team finisher. He said that he was determined to make it happen his senior year.
Hard work paid off with a second-place state finish during summer freestyle action. He also went on a wrestling cultural exchange to Poland, which he called, “the experience of a lifetime.”
During the GSL dual match season, Clute lost in double overtime to Central Valley’s Camren Ebat and upset eventual 4A district champion Neil Didier of Mead the week before the postseason began.
Clute said his victory last weekend at East Valley was his first tournament title.
“I feel like Achilles in the movie “Troy,” because he wanted his name to be known,” he said. “Two years ago when you’d say NC, it was no one to worry about. Now we have a good coach, a few pretty good wrestlers and when they say, ‘Hey, do you know who the 152-pound wrestler is?’ Oh, yeah, it’s Mike Clute.
“We finally want someone to know who we are. That’s the biggest thing.”
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