Former walk-on wrestler nabs title


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Christopher Johnson pinned his way to the 141-pound intramural wrestling championship match and defeated Seth Epliny Monday night in the intramural wrestling championships in Dan Gable Wrestling Complex in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Johnson performed his ritual of listening to “Lunatic Fringe” by Red Raider as he warmed up. But it wasn’t until he noticed a group of 10 swimming and diving athletes, his parents, and his older sister in the audience that he got fully pumped.

Johnson’s parents said they and others love to watch him wrestle because he is full of surprises and capitalizes on others’ mistakes

“So many wrestlers have one key move that they rely on in most matches, but Christopher has such a variety of moves he always surprises everyone,” mother Debbie Johnson said. “This causes his matches to be very nerve wracking for us, as parents but he always keeps everyone’s attention.”

Christopher Johnson has been wrestling since he was 2 years old in West Burlington, Iowa. During his youth wrestling career, his parents made it possible for him to travel around the country.

Father John Johnson said they traveled as far as Tulsa, Okla., for wrestling tournaments in a bus his family purchased. When Christopher Johnson neared high school, however there was no prep program to compete on.

“I went to the School Board and asked if I bought the mats, uniforms, and gave them the necessities if they would incorporate a wrestling program into West Burlington, they said yes,” John Johnson said.

This occurred in the summer before Christopher’s freshman year.

After that, John Johnson said, the program exploded.

Christopher Johnson qualified for the state championships in Des Moines during both his sophomore and senior years in high school, bringing back a third-place medal with each trip.

Despite scholarship offers from Division-III schools, such as Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, Christopher Johnson elected to follow his brother, Chad, to Iowa City.

Although, Christopher Johnson didn’t consider walking on to the Iowa program until his sophomore year, when his roommate at the Lodge asked him for help during a workout.

“When I started working out with my roommate, all of the passion came back right away,” Christopher Johnson said. “I just thought, ‘All right, I have to have this back in my life now.’ ”

Christopher Johnson joined the Iowa wrestling team during the 2005-06 season under former head coach Jim Zalesky. In his first tournament as a Hawkeye, Debbie Johnson said, Christopher Johnson scored pins in five of his seven matches.

“One thing about him when he’s wrestling is that he isn’t one of those wrestlers who goes for the points,” John Johnson said. “He always tries to go for the pin. It’s all about the pin.”

He only wrestled for one season before he was accepted into the athletics training program at the UI. Then, reality set in.

A tough decision was now in his hands because he had been wrestling for his entire life.

“I ultimately ended up having to choose between having a job and making money versus something I am very passionate about,” Christopher Johnson said. “My future career won.”

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