Hanahan wrestler J.J. Johnson has no idea how many matches he’s won in his high school career.
What’s his high school match record? “Something and two,” he said.
Johnson, a senior, is one of the most successful wrestlers in state history and loves to win. But what motivates him and makes him work harder is when he suffers a rare defeat.
“If I don’t wrestle well, I will watch video, see what I did wrong and work on it after practice until I get it right,” he said. “My goal is to eliminate any mistakes.”
Johnson makes few mistakes, and he surely will bring his A-game to Dreher High School on Saturday when the No. 6 Hawks tangle with No. 1 Eastside in the Class AAA state championship. The Hawks were crowned state champions last year at the Class AA level, and Johnson wants one more team title before he graduates and heads off to the University of Missouri, where he will continue his wrestling career.
“Obviously, we want to go out as champions,” said Johnson, who will compete in the 132-pound division on Saturday. “And to do that, you have to put in the time in the wrestling room. You have to want it more and work harder than your opponent.”
Johnson’s work habits were disrupted this season when he underwent an emergency appendectomy on Jan. 16. Coach Ray Adkins thought Johnson had a pulled muscle in his rib cage when his star told him was going to the doctor. Johnson underwent surgery and was expected to be sidelined for two weeks. But one of Johnson’s incisions became infected and he missed nearly a month of the season.
“The day after he had his appendix removed, he showed up at school,” Adkins said. “The school wanted to send him home. But he didn’t want to go home. The day after, he came to practice. Of course he couldn’t practice, but his presence was noted. “He mandates commitment and hard work from his teammates. If someone is slacking off, he does my job. He will set you straight.”
Johnson and fellow classmate Dennis Flores are the heart of the Hawks’ team. Flores is a two-time individual state champ. He won the 152-pound division last year and the 145-pound division in 2011.
It will take a total team effort on Saturday, Adkins said.
“Eastside is a great team,” he said. “They have a a great tradition, winning numerous (Class) AAA state titles. We look forward to the challenge of going up there Saturday.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @PandCphil