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Johnson claims freestyle state title

Wrestling - Forest Grove freshman Josh Johnson wins a title at the Oregon Junior Freestyle Championships
by: , Josh Johnson

After a disappointing high school season, Forest Grove wrestling got a bit of good news last weekend when freshman Josh Johnson won his weight class at the Oregon Junior Freestyle Championships in Hood River.

Johnson, wrestling at 98 pounds, became Forest Grove's first state freestyle champion since Ron Horesky in 1979. Taylor Graham was a two-time state finalist in freestyle, placing second in 2001 and 2002.

By winning his weight class, Johnson earned a spot on the Oregon National Team, which will compete at the Junior National Championships from July 18-26 in Fargo, N.D. The Oregon team will attend a joint training camp in mid-July.

The freestyle state championship was even sweeter for Johnson following a disappointing finish to his first high school season. After winning more than 20 matches during the regular season, Johnson was sidelined with shingles late in the year and wasn't cleared to wrestle again until the first day of the Pacific Conference district tournament, where he struggled to a sixth-place finish.

'He had a disappointing performance and did not qualify for the state tournament,' said Forest Grove wrestling coach Frank Johnson. 'In the [high school] division, the lowest weight class is 103 [pounds]. With the two-pound growth allowance, it becomes 105. Throughout the [high school] season, Josh routinely gave up 10 to 12 pounds in his matches.'

Next year, Johnson will team with current eighth graders Jake Bennett and Kyle Vanderkin to form the nucleus of a young but talented Forest Grove varsity team.

Bennett recently won the Middle School State Championship at 122 pounds and just returned from Illinois, where he competed in the National Middle School Team Championships. Vanderkin had originally qualified for the trip to nationals, but broke a bone in his hand and Bennett went in his place.