The Clark Kent-esque look can be deceiving.
The dark hair. The clean-shaven face. The glasses. Thomas Culp has it all. He has the transformation part down pat, too.
It might not be as dramatic as stepping into a phone booth and emerging as a superhero, but when the Quincy High School sophomore wrestler takes the mat, the mild-mannered exterior demeanor morphs into a disposition that continually gives him a leg up on opponents.
"I've heard the comparison a couple times," Culp said of being told he looks more studious like Clark Kent. "It boosts my confidence to know even if you don't look the part, you can still go out there and be the part. That's all I try to do."
Culp is playing that part nearly to perfection.
Heading into this weekend's 50th annual Quincy Invitational on Friday and Saturday at the QHS gym, Culp is 26-1 at 182 pounds. His lone loss was an injury default that occurred when he was leading 15-5, so he easily could still be undefeated.
"His offseason work is a big reason why," QHS coach Phil Neally said. "He made the commitment to get better. He was at more than 80 percent of our open mats. He's shown up and worked hard. That's the basis for how you improve."
Getting in better shape helped as well. Culp, who finished second at the regional as a freshman, dropped more than 20 pounds since practice began in November. It's made him more nimble, quicker and more aggressive.
"It's put him in a better frame of mind," Neally said.
It's kept him humble.
"Just work harder," Culp said. "The harder you work, the better."
That's been the approach of Quincy's upperclass core as they help mold a lineup that includes five freshmen into a tournament contender.
Matthew Peters, who won the Quincy Invitational championship at 138 last season, and Hunter Yohn, the most valuable wrestler at 160 pounds at a holiday tournament in Florida during which he went 9-0 with eight pins, should be in the title mix this weekend. Two others -- junior Blake Peter at 113 and senior Hunter Carter at 120 -- should be in contention as well.
"These are kids who do it the right way," Neally said. "These guys have worked hard to keep the team on an even keel and focused on working hard to get better. They go about their business and get the job done."
That's been happening all season.
From the first quadrangular of the season when the Blue Devils beat Chatham Glenwood and Carbondale and tied Collinsville, to finishing second as a team in the KSA Holiday Tournament in Orlando, Fla., the Blue Devils have gained the confidence needed to be a factor in the Western Big Six Conference and in regionals.
That push starts this weekend.
"The invitational is going to help me, because the home crowd is going to boost me more and more coming on," Culp said. "I'll be able to prove to myself I can do better than last year and make it state, not just to sectionals."