Intertwined once again with Cheyenne East’s Blaise Ronnau, Burns-Pine Bluffs’ Boe Clayson wasn’t going to be the 170-pound, small-town kid who backed down.
The two wrestled at the Bison Bonanza on Dec. 28, where Ronnau came away victorious. The Thunderbird started slow before scoring multiple takedowns. Clayson wasn’t expecting that strategy and was forced to wrestle from behind. In the end, he couldn’t overcome the deficit and lost by a 13-7 decision.
Clayson had his rematch with Ronnau in the Round of 32 last weekend at the Shane Shatto Memorial Tournament in Douglas. He’d studied the tape and knew how he could win. The challenge was making it happen.
“This time I knew kind of what he was going to come out with,” Clayson said. “I know he had been training against me, too, because it was a good match. So I worked in practice a lot on my defense and it worked out.”
Clayson had Ronnau scouted at every shot attempt. The Burns’ standout went on to win by a 9-2 decision and finish second at the prestigious tournament. The junior used that weekend as the next step in his maturation, which has largely consisted of taking the most difficult path.
Learning to thrive on competition, Clayson has welcomed the greatest challenges in hopes of building himself into a champion.
“I’m glad I got to start out with that match because it’s a good match to warm-up with,” he said of the bout with Ronnau. “He’s a good competitor and it’s good to be able to compete before the later parts of the tournament.”
Clayson busted onto the scene as a freshman, winning the junior varsity division of the Shane Shatto before going on to win the 2A East Regional at 170 pounds. A loss in the state semifinals sidetracked his hopes of gold and he ultimately settled for fourth.
A move up to 182 for his sophomore season didn’t bring expected results. He didn’t place at the Charlie Lake Invitational and took third at the Shane Shatto before losing in the second round of regionals. Driven to return to the Casper Events Center, he worked through wrestle-backs and beat Southeast’s Tate Carson, who had pinned Clayson in the second round, in a sudden-victory decision. That qualified him for the state tournament where he once again lost in the semifinals and, once again, finished fourth.
Stagnation wasn’t what he hoped for. However, it was tough for him to get discouraged. After all, here was this young wrestler from Burns-Pine Bluffs who had put the rest of the state on notice.
“I think of it as a kind of starting point,” Clayson said. “I came out and proved some things to people that they had to start kind of looking at me. Most of the people looked at going into a match with a sophomore back then and would have been like, ‘Eh, I don’t know.’ But I came out last year and started in this, did really well in a lot of my tournaments. That improved my confidence and made people have to watch me and see if they were wrestling me.
“It’s kind of a cool thing to have people nervous to wrestle you.”
He’s taken the confidence he’s built and used it toward future results. Of course, his success on the football field has helped too. He was Class 2A’s third-leading rusher, averaging 119.8 yards per game, helping lead Burns to its best season since 2013.
Clayson said his focus for this wrestling season has remained on improving every weekend through regionals and state. Burns-Pine Bluffs isn’t scheduled to wrestle at any meet Class 3A power Star Valley is at, which disappoints Clayson. He’s welcomed every challenge so far and the Braves’ Koa DeLong (3A’s top-ranked wrestler at 170 pounds) would provide him his biggest challenge. And with the jump up to Class 3A this year, Clayson wants to prove he belongs.
Since that challenge won’t present itself until further down the line, he’ll focus on whatever challenge awaits next. And then whichever one appears after that.
“I’m just going to work my way through,” he said, “wrestle as many tough matches as I can and see what happens when I get there.”