Despite sub-.500 record, Johnson headed to state
Freshmen are a rare sight at state competition. This weekend in Salina, the Basehor-Linwood wrestling team is sending two.
It is sweet vindication for a young team that took its share of beatings during the season.
Joe Johnson, wrestling in the 119-pound bracket, finished fourth during regional competition Saturday at Holton. Fellow freshman Martin Buck also earned the trip.
"I am really excited," Johnson said. "Not many freshmen go to state, especially ones with a losing record."
Johnson is 11-12 on the season.
The freshman was not confident entering the weekend.
"I really didn't think I would make it because I had been out for a while and hadn't gotten a lot of mat time," Johnson said.
Johnson had been sidelined with a viral infection. He had been unable to practice for most of the past two weeks. His return to action proved successful, even if it did take some time to shake off the rust.
"In the first match, I didn't wrestle so well, I got pinned," Johnson said. "I didn't think I could do good in this tournament."
After that, Johnson's psyche improved.
"When I won my second match, my confidence really went up," Johnson said.
All of a sudden, Johnson knew he had a chance to reach state.
After a couple wins, Johnson was wrestling for an inclusion into the third-place match, and an automatic berth in the state tournament.
It didn't look good initially. Johnson was down by two points late in the third period.
"I had to shoot, and get a takedown to send it into overtime," Johnson said.
Johnson was somehow able to secure the takedown with one second remaining on the clock, sending the match into overtime. The miracle, last-second move preserved Johnson's chances of reaching state. Moments later, he capitalized, winning in the extra frame.
"I was kind of nervous," Johnson said of the OT. "I had to go all out, because if I didn't, I wasn't going to state. I went all out crazy in it."
Johnson lost in the third-place match. He admitted to wrestling distracted.
"(The third-place match) was kind of the icing on the cake," Johnson said. "If I had gotten third, I would have gotten to wrestle a worse guy at state. I wasn't really focused, because I knew I was going to state."
Throughout the weekend, Johnson kept his mind on the people who had helped him reach this point.
"I was a little nervous before, but if I made it (to state), a lot of people would be proud me," Johnson said. "My mom and dad and my coach; especially my dad. He wrestled in high school and he really wants me to do well."
Johnson's dad also went to high school in Basehor. The younger Johnson calls his father an inspiration.
"He helps me every time I get home from practice, if I have a question he will help me," Johnson said. "He helps me with some of my moves. He gives me tips on how to wrestle a good match."