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Grappling with success: Benson’s Goodwin 3-time state wrestling champ looking for more

Winning. That’s what drives Clayson Goodwin.

The Benson High School junior won his third Arizona state wrestling championship in as many attempts in February.

The Division IV trifecta enables Clayson to join Alvaro Fenn as Benson High School’s only three-time state champions, and he hopes to be alongside Fenn as the only four-time champ when all is said and done in 2020.

It would be hard to bet against.

In three high school seasons, Clayson has amassed an impressive 162-win count against nine defeats, seven of which came his freshman year. He is 114-2 over the last two seasons, while posting the 56-1 record this year.

It’s a simple formula for Clayson.

“I don’t ever want to be last,” he said, acknowledging the three-for-three state titles as a “big accomplishment.”

He has been wrestling since seventh grade, and won his first Arizona state championship as an eighth-grader in 2016. He is Benson Middle School’s first-ever state champ.

Clayson, 17, appears more than comfortable on the mat. His aim is to simplify. During matches, Clayson crouches into a football-like three-point stance, then tears into his opponent.

“I want to win. I don’t think much … I just go into wrestling mode, I focus on what I need to do,” he said.

The 2019 championship came at a third weight class. As a freshman in 2017, he wrestled out of the 182-pound weight class. He finished that season at 48-7. As a sophomore, at 58-1, he won the title at 195. He grappled out of the 220-pound class in 2019.

“I love the challenge,” he answered, in response to a question on what drives his relentless pursuit. Away from the mat he “loves” hunting.

The mat accolades are not lost on Clayson’s parents, Marshall and Michelle Goodwin. But they also recognize the need for perspective.

“It’s been an amazing road,” said Michelle. “He has been one that if he really sets his mind to something he can do it… Wrestling is really influenced by your mind. If his mind is not in the right place it shows, so we do try and give him days off to hunt, ride and really just de-stress during the season. We are obviously beyond proud of him.”

Success has not come without some angst.

“I worry every year about the stress of everyone knowing and watching to see if he can do it again, and I see how devastating losing that can be,” Michelle said. “Witnessing those tears are hard. This sport is like no other, that’s why I like it most. You, as a wrestler, determine your fate… This sport mentally challenges kids to push themselves. What they do is hard.”

Benson wrestling coach Ben Katshor marveled at the accomplishments and what lies ahead.

“Clayson is an amazing athlete. He has so much talent and is a constant in our lineup and program,” said Katshor, recognizing the recent three-peat. “He is in the process of doing something no one has done in 40 years and which has only happened once before. …This year he was a lot more coachable and willing to try new things. Next year we look at him being our leader and captain. Every year he elevates himself and motivates himself right before state. He meets tough competition head on and I think it’s what keeps him motivated and working hard.”

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