LAKEWOOD, Ohio --
Just ask any Marine and they’ll tell you, the Marine Corps is the toughest, most prestigious fighting force the world has ever known. It’s that reputation that attracted champion wrestler and Columbia Station, Ohio native Staff Sgt. Jesse Clark to enlist 12 years ago.
“I knew I couldn’t live with myself unless I joined the toughest branch,” said Clark, a Marine recruiter at Recruiting Substation Lakewood, Ohio. “I knew if I didn’t join the Marine Corps I would always wonder if I had what it took to be a Marine.”
Clark wanted the kind of job where he could provide for his family but still challenge himself.
“I joined so I could take care of my family and still have the opportunity to achieve all the goals I had set for myself,” said Clark. “I’ve been able to travel the world and continue my wrestling career. I wouldn’t have been able to do these things without the Marine Corps.”
As a Marine, Clark worked as an airframe mechanic for MV-22 Ospreys, something he misses occasionally while on recruiting duty.
“I miss the fleet,” said Clark. “I miss being part of an operational unit.”
Despite what you may have heard, however, recruiting duty isn’t all that bad, according to Clark.
“I like my job here,” said Clark. “It helps to recruit in the area where I grew up because of all the people I already know out here.”
Clark has been very successful as a canvassing recruiter. In a little more than a year on recruiting duty, Clark has written an impressive 31 contracts and shipped 16 motivated young men and women to recruit training.
In addition to giving qualified men and women the chance to stand on the yellow footprints and earn the title Marine, Clark has also found time to mentor and coach wrestlers in the Cleveland area.
“Since coming to this area on recruiting duty I’ve helped individual wrestlers and run a clinic at Padu Franciscan High School where I graduated from,” said Clark.
Clark has always excelled as a wrestler.
“When [Staff Sgt. Clark] was in high school I wanted him to wrestle for me,” said Greg Urbas, a former Marine lieutenant and wrestling coach at St. Edward High School in Lakewood, Ohio. “He was a state champion.”
During his 34 years coaching at St. Edward, Urbas has helped guide the wrestling team to 16 state titles and 11 national titles.
In 1996, Clark was the Ohio state champion in the 125-pound division, finishing fourth in nationals. In 1998, while wrestling as a freshman for NCAA division II school Ashland University, he finished second in the country during nationals.
“My greatest moments as a wrestler were winning the state championship in high school and being the NCAA championship runner up in my freshman year,” said Clark.
In the course of his time in the Corps, Clark has had the unique opportunity to compete against some of the best wrestlers in the world during two stints with the All-Marine Wrestling Team in 2003 and 2007.
When the All Marine Wrestling Team came to St. Edward High School for a two-day clinic, May 8-9, Clark was there to assist in the instruction of more than 60 Cleveland area youths.
The clinic was part of the lead up to Marine Week Cleveland, a week-long celebration of community, country and Corps slated for June 11-17. Marines from across the country will be in Cleveland during the week to show the American people firsthand what their Marine Corps does for them.
According the Clark, having Marine Week in his hometown will help him as he continues to recruit the most talented and qualified young men and women to take on the challenge of becoming Marines.
“I think Marine Week Cleveland will help me in my job as a recruiter,” said Clark. “It will really open people’s eyes and show them what their Marine Corps is capable of.”