Coach Johnson, the head coach at Wisconsin Stevens Point, was a product of the University of Oklahoma where he was a two-time NCAA All-American and former member of the US National team talks about his career both as an athlete and coach.
TOM: As an athlete in college you compiled a pretty impressive record and earned all-American honors on two occasions for the University of Oklahoma, what is one of your more memorable moments as a Sooner and your college years?
JJ: It is difficult to pick one particular moment that stands out. Winning the Big 8 title as a team twice was big or getting to wrestle in the Caesarâ€™s Palace Invitational final on ESPN was cool. But, Iâ€™d say my fondest memories come from being in the wrestling room with guys like Roger Frizzell, Dave & Mark Schultz, Andre Metzger, Melvin Douglas, Dan Chaid, and so many more wrestling icons.
TOM: You spent 8 years under Hall of Fame coach J Robinson, what did you take away from the experience?
JJ: Wowâ€¦again when you have the opportunity to be around great coach like J. you take so many things away from that. The first thing that comes to mind is intensity. I learned that you can bring intensity into the room every day and make it an expectation for each guy. I feel strongly that our guys, because we are at the Div. III level, bring passion to the sport of wrestling, which in turn allows us to raise the level of intensity each day.
TOM: What brought you to Wisconsin and more specific Stevens Point?
JJ: I was looking for an opportunity to move on to a head coaching position and I knew that opportunity would present itself sooner at UW-Stevens Point. My original intention was to return to D. I, but I found a home.
TOM: In your opinion what is the biggest difference between DI and DIII?
JJ: From a coaching standpoint not much. We get the opportunity to work with athletes who truly want to improve and win. Our commitment level and love for wrestling isnâ€™t different than D.I. From a room standpoint, D. I rooms are deeper with overall talent, because of the scholarships.
TOM: DIII National Champions used to get a birth in the DI Nationals, is this something you would like to see brought back?
JJ: Absolutely. I think it provided many positive elements to the D.I NCAAâ€™s. Fans enjoyed seeing D.II & D III wrestlers compete with the D.I guys. In 1991 Dan Russell from Portland State received a standing ovation in Carver-Hawkeye arena after his last match. He didn’t finish first (ended up 4th) but entered the tournament seeded #1. I think that reason alone is enough to bring the D. II & D. III wrestlers back in.
TOM: How would you say recruiting varies from DI to DIII?
JJ: Again, money makes a difference. It doesnâ€™t affect the quality of people we recruit, but it does limit where we might go to recruit. I typically recruit kids from the Midwest (Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, etcâ€¦) because to get a kid here and pay full out-of-state tuition is a little tougher. Plus, my budget doesnâ€™t allow me to travel to all those other states outside of the Midwest.
TOM: You had a 2nd place finish last season in the WIAC, will you be pushing for the title this season?
JJ: Always! Many people may not know how close we were to winning it last year. We lost by two points and it literally came down to the last match of the day. I felt like our finish at conference was an example of our teamâ€™s commitment to finishing strong. Most looked at the WIAC tournament as a two-horse race and we werenâ€™t one of those horses. So, to be that close to winning it, I believe we made a statement about Pointer Wrestling.
TOM: You have a large talented class coming in this season do you see any of them having an immediate impact?
JJ: Yes, this is the largest and overall most talented group of freshmen Iâ€™ve seen since I have been at Point. Some of them will definitely make an impact as we have a few spots to fill with the loss of Chase DeCleene, Jake Wozniak, & Jered Kern. Any or all of those weight classes could be filled by freshmen. The best thing is that we will have good depth and they will push each other. Iâ€™m confident that whoever comes out those battles for the starting role, they will compete at a high level.
TOM: So where do you see the Pointers finishing the year?
JJ: Itâ€™s hard to call that one. But, I can guarantee we will be there battling.
Thank your to Coach Johnson for taking the time.
By: The Open Mat staff.
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