KELOLAND Sports original focus: Clay Carlson, American wrestler from South Dakota State

BROOKINGS, SD (KELO) — “You can count on it, every time, you know what you get when Clay Carlson steps on that mat,” SDSU wrestling head coach Damion Hahn said of the junior.

A model of consistency that has taken years to develop.

“I was a really bad loser growing up. I was the kid who cried in a board game or a card game. But I came out in my first tournament and pinned the two kids I was with. struggled and after that it’s been like an addiction since, basically,” said junior SDSU wrestler Clay Carlson.

After finishing second in the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament as a junior, Carlson went a perfect 48-0 in his state championship-capped senior season at Willmar High School.

“When I did the picture of me, there’s just a huge smile on my face. I look at my dad and mom and it was just super exciting,” Carlson said of the moment.

Now was the time for Carlson to make his decision to go to college. In May 2018, a month after hiring Damion Hahn as their new head coach, the Jacks hosted their senior banquet. Clay’s older brother, Colten, was a redshirt freshman on the team.

“He said coach listen, my family is coming to town, could you meet Clay? And I will yes, absolutely,” Hahn said.

“We sat in the upstairs conference room,” Carlson added.

“I’m sitting in my office and Colten sticks his head out and he’s like you ready to meet them coach?” Hahn said.

“Like it was just unplanned,” Carlson continued.

“And he looks at my desk and was like ‘uh…that’s not big enough,'” Hahn quoted.

“Colten was in there; my dad, my mom, my stepmom, my younger siblings were all in there,” Carlson said of his family.

“We sat and talked for what I’m going to say was every three hours,” Hahn said.

“I basically walked out of that room and I was like that was the guy I wanted to fight for,” Carlson said.

Carlson would come to Brookings, bringing with him an industrious type attitude.

“You talk about a work ethic that doesn’t stop and there’s good and bad with that because you have a kid who will do anything and everything you ask, but he’ll also work until the end. dead,” Hahn said of Carlson.

“I’m probably not the most talented guy in my weight class and if I want to achieve my goals I’m going to have to focus on everything, every day and I’m going to have to work harder than everyone else,” Carlson said. .

That grind would pay off with an 8th-place finish at last year’s NCAA Wrestling Championships, earning him the All-American title.

“Pure joy is the best way to describe it because that moment in the Round of 16 when he became an All-American and just seeing his face…how could you not just be ecstatic for him,” Hahn said.

With that feat in his back pocket and a current record of 18-1, the journey to the top of the sport continues.

“It’s something that no one can ever take away from him and now the stakes are higher,” Hahn said. .