Clymer embraced high expectations
Maybe it was destiny.
Perhaps it was simply good fortune.
The reality, though, was that Caleb Clymer always controlled his own future.
Born into a family rich in wrestling tradition, Clymer was almost a household name before he even stepped onto the mat for Northwestern.
Caleb grew up watching brothers Ben, Scott and Bobby set the standard. All three were District 11 champions. Scott and Ben were two-time regional champions, and both also won state titles. Scott accomplished the feat in 2006, while Ben did so in 2008.
He could have buckled under the weight of heavy expectations. Instead, he embraced it, making a name for himself with a phenomenal career that ended with a state championship in March — and now includes Times News Wrestler of the Year honors.
“It was just kind of fate for me to end with a state championship, just finishing up how my brothers did,” said Caleb. “And then qualifying for the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic (Dapper Dan) just kind of topped it off. I couldn’t have been happier with how my season ended.”
A district championship and a trip to Hershey as a freshman offered a glimpse of what the younger Clymer was capable of.
Clymer overcame a devastating hip injury to place sixth at states as a sophomore before finishing third as a junior.
Dreams of a state title ended with a 5-3 loss to Ligonier Valley’s Robby Patrick in the quarterfinals a year ago - a loss that provided the fuel for his run to gold this season.
“I think that moment was last year at states. He lost in the quarters and took it pretty hard,” Northwestern head coach Jim Moll said of the setback. “He was really hard on himself, and rightfully so. He certainly did not wrestle his best that match. For him to be able to put that loss behind him, bounce back, and wrestle a few really good matches to place third showed the toughness that I think you need to have in order to win a state title.
“There are a lot of doubts that can creep into your head out in Hershey. especially after a loss. You can’t listen to those thoughts. You have to believe in yourself. There are too many other distractions out there that can get you off course. He didn’t let that happen after his quarterfinal match. That was the moment I thought he had a chance of winning a state title as a senior.”
Clymer checked all the boxes this past season, from winning his third district title, to capturing his first regional crown before standing atop the podium in Hershey.
In the end, there was never any doubt.
“I kind of expected to win a state championship, but that was more of a hope than something I was sure of,” said Clymer, who finished the season 44-1. “But as the years progressed, after my sophomore year, having a little bit of a setback, to my junior year getting real close.
“When it came down to my senior year, I just felt it. I didn’t know I was going to win, but I was very confident that I was going to win.”
Clymer put on a clinic during the state tournament, outscoring his four opponents 20-1. He produced perhaps his greatest performance in the final, defeating Port Allegany’s Jacob Kallenborn by an 8-0 major decision to win gold.
“The state title didn’t come as a surprise. The way he dominated that weekend did, though,” said Moll. “States is a long three days of wrestling. Not many wrestlers are able to keep such a high level of wrestling all three days. For Caleb to do that showed a lot of mental toughness.”
“I knew pretty early on that Caleb had the physical abilities to have this level of success. It takes a lot more than that, however. Caleb did a great job maturing, developing mentally, and maintaining the drive to improve throughout the offseason every year.”
That growth is far from over. Clymer recently announced that he would continue his wrestling career at Lock Haven University, a Division I program, which features the likes of Chance Marsteller, a four-time PIAA champion who finished his high school career 166-0.
After finishing his high school career on top of the high school wrestling world, Clymer is ready to start all over and take the next step in his career.
“I was just wrestling with Marsteller the other day, which is insane, and was just kinda wrestling with him for an hour and just kinda scrambling with him and going live, and I just realized there is so much I have yet to learn, and feel for the sport,” said Clymer.
“It kinda seemed like I just needed to polish the little things. But no, now I need to jump a lot higher. It’s back to the bottom of the totem pole, and now it’s the long climb back up, and I can’t wait to get at it.”