When women’s wrestling became a sanctioned sport by the Kansas State High School Activities Association, Goddard’s coach Brett Means never thought about creating a women’s team.
With 11 state championships to his name and as one of the most decorated high school coaches in Kansas history, Means’ words carry weight.
But not to Ashlynn Goodwin, at least not on this topic.
Goodwin refused to be overlooked in Goddard’s wrestling hall when she was a freshman. It didn’t matter that her trainer still didn’t take women’s wrestling seriously; she had made a commitment to keep working until she had no choice but to respect him.
That moment came Thursday after Goodwin, now a senior, wrapped up her career with her second Class 6-5A state championship at the Kansas High School Women’s Wrestling State Tournament held at Hartman Arena in Park City.
“When Ashlynn came to us, I wouldn’t say I was absolutely against women’s wrestling, but I really didn’t like it,” Means said. “I wasn’t a big supporter. She changed my mind. Now I’m all in and it’s because she was all in. She’ll tell you she’s been one of the hardest workers in our room, boy or girl, this year. She completely changed my mind and I now embrace women’s wrestling and can’t wait until next year.
She didn’t want to be a pioneer, Goodwin just wanted to be treated like any other female wrestler.
Hearing those words from her legendary trainer at the end of her career meant a lot to Goodwin, who is quiet and reserved by nature.
“They didn’t pay much attention to me then, but now they’re starting to get more interested in women’s wrestling,” Goodwin said. “It sure means a lot, especially since I was the one who changed his opinion on women’s wrestling.”
Goodwin never wanted to be treated differently; he just wanted the opportunity to compete in practice and work hard every day to try and get a little better every day.
The coaching staff quickly learned of his work ethic and the pride he took in completing the same workouts as the boys. Two years ago, when the boys’ assistant coach Brian Means started coaching the girls, he offered to split the workouts so the girls could work out on their own.
“Ashlynn said, ‘If you split workouts, I’m moving,'” said Brian Means, laughing. “He Never, ever makes an excuse for anything. She’s amazing every day in the rehearsal room. She never misses a workout.
While Goddard is the premier boys’ wrestling program in the state, its girls’ program is still growing. Goodwin has been one of only two girls on the team for the past three years.
Not only has her persistence and dedication opened Means’ mind, but the trainer hopes she has also opened the door for other girl wrestlers to follow in her footsteps at Goddard.
“Other girls in our area see what Ashlynn did and where she went to do it,” Brett Means said. “She speaks for herself.”
“We are trying to build our girls program right now and Ashlynn has been a huge help,” Brian Means added. “She helps out in practice with our less experienced wrestlers and there are quite a few younger girls who look up to her.”
Goodwin was the model of consistency her senior season, taking her calm, measured personality and applying it to the mat. She is so technically proficient that she allows her to be constantly on offense, putting pressure on opponents throughout the match.
At the state tournament, Goodwin finished with three pins and a big decision. A 41-1 season culminated in the finals of the 140lbs division as she finished a dominant game involving five eliminations, the last of which turned into a third period pin of Kapaun Mt. Carmel junior Jayla Johnson.
“I finished all my shots, so that was good,” Goodwin said. “I just went in there and did what I know how to do.”
Goodwin, the 2021 state champion, was motivated after losing in the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year. Brian Means said this season was the perfect end to a spectacular career.
“It was sad to know I just coached his last game,” he said. “It’s really sad to see someone like her go. It was amazing for us.