EDMONDS — Right from the start, Russ Goodwin had the match go his way. The Edmonds-Woodway High School senior got an early takedown and then used a half-nelson hold to turn the Kamiak wrestler onto his back.
Moments later, the referee slapped the mat and the home crowd erupted with cheers. The ovation grew louder as the referee raised Goodwin’s arm in triumph.
It was a special moment for a special young man.
The 18-year-old Goodwin, who has Down syndrome, closed his high school wrestling career on Thursday night in the best possible way. In an exhibition bout prior to the varsity match between the Warriors and Knights, Goodwin won with a first-period pin against Will Jones, his Kamiak opponent and a very good sport.
The match “felt good for me,” Goodwin said later.
The best part of wrestling, he added, “is being part of the team, being part of the varsity guys, winning and getting the pin.”
One of the spectators was his mother, Diane Hutchison. An elementary school principal in the Northshore School District, she has seen her son’s life transformed by wrestling.
“It’s made him a really important member of the (school) community,” Hutchison said. “He hangs with the cool guys. And he’s included in something that’s so positive. It’s amazing to me how positive wrestling is.”
Goodwin took up the sport in middle school, “and from the start my worry was always that he would be excluded,” she said. “But that’s really never happened. (His coaches and teammates) have actually broke ground many times with how inclusive they were. And they’re not just doing it to be nice. It’s because he’s part of the family.
“When Russ needs help, even sometimes just getting his shoes on and off, I’ll look over and one of them is right there helping him,” she said.
Like other kids with Down syndrome, Goodwin has daily challenges. Timidity, though, is not one of them.
“Russ is one of the most outgoing people I’ve ever met in my life,” said senior wrestler Matthew Cuzzetto, a close friend. “And he’s probably the most popular kid in the school. He talks to everybody and everybody always says, ‘Hi, Russ.’ Or he’ll introduce himself to somebody new and ask how their day is going. He wants to be your friend.”
“He’s a big deal around the school,” agreed Warriors head coach Brian Alfi. “Everyone knows Russ and everyone wants to be his friend. When he’s walking around he’s got all these buddies everywhere. He can relate to everyone and he can always put a smile on everyone’s face.”
Goodwin also has a playful side. “He likes to sing and dance in the hallways,” explained sophomore Thomas Phipps, another good friend. “Or he’s dancing in the wrestling room.”
It might look silly, Phipps said, “but it’s actually pretty fun.”
And like most teen-age boys, Goodwin has an eye for the ladies. After Thursday’s match, he walked past a group of Edmonds-Woodway cheerleaders and said jovially, “Thanks for cheering me on, girls.”
Goodwin has wrestled only exhibitions in high school. But in a Tuesday night match against Lynnwood, and with the Royals having to forfeit at his weight class, Alfi put Goodwin in the lineup.
That meant he got to step onto the mat and have his arm raised, earning six points for his team. It was one of the season highlights, not only for Goodwin himself, but also for his coaches and teammates.
For Hutchison, seeing her son have a meaningful high school experience — due, in large part, to wrestling — has been “absolutely joyous. It’s just been wonderful.
“When you have a child with a disability,” she explained, “the first thing that happens (as a parent) is that you might be excluded because your child is different. And that’s as hard for us as it is for the kids. But because he fits in, I get to fit in as well. So I’m a wrestling mom.
“If he were excluded it would hurt like hell. But it’s not that way. I can’t imagine a more inclusive, more positive and more wonderful experience. I’d wish all kids could get that, not just my kid.”
Goodwin will graduate at the end of the school year, but he will not be leaving Edmonds-Woodway. He expects to return next season, when he will help coach the wrestling team.
And that is a good thing, Alfi said, “because I can’t imagine Edmonds-Woodway wrestling without Russ Goodwin.”