BY PHILIP M. BOWMAN

pbowman@postandcourier.com

Hanahan coach Ray Adkins expected bad news when star wrestler J.J. Johnson returned from a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday. Johnson experienced pain is in his rib cage and went to get it examined.

“I thought he was going to tell me he was out two weeks because he pulled a muscle,” Adkins said. “But they determined it was his appendix. Now, it looks like his season is over.”

Johnson underwent an emergency appendectomy Wednesday afternoon and it is doubtful he will be able to defend his state title.

He won the Class AA 120-pound division last winter and is ranked No. 1 in Class AAA 126-pound division this season.

Johnson was 48-1 as a junior. He earned All-America status for the second year in a row, placing second in the 113-pound division at the National High School Wrestling Tournament.

He and teammate Dennis Flores are a big reason the Hawks are ranked No. 5 in the latest Class AAA state poll. Flores is a two-time state champ. He won the 152-pound division last year and the 145-pound division in 2011.

“I was surprised when I found out about J.J.,” Flores said. “We are kind of close. All of us are close. We work out together and we teach the new guys some of the techniques we use.”

The Hawks are trying to win back-to-back state titles, but are wrestling in a higher classification this year.

“Class AA is more about muscle, and Class AAA is more about technique,” Flores said. “We feel no extra pressure because we’re in AAA now. We just want to finish strong. I’ve probably worked as hard this year as I ever had. We want one more state title.”

That might be tough to do without Johnson, who will wrestle for Missouri next year.

“People were moving up and down in (weight) classifications just to avoid him,” Adkins said of Johnson. “People just wanted to stay out of his way, to avoid him at all costs.

“It’s a tough break for J.J.” Adkins added. “He’s a kid who loves to wrestle. He and Dennis are great leaders, and they do it by example. They deserve everything they get because they work so hard.”

Two other Hanahan wrestlers are ranked in the top eight in the state by scmat.com. Tyler Talack is No. 5 in the 113-pound division and Jacob Garibay is No. 3 in the 220-pound classification.

The state wrestling tournament begins Feb. 2 and concludes with the state meet on Feb. 9 at Dreher High School.