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Johnson rebounds to finish third at state meet

MADISON — It has been a difficult year for Micah Johnson.

The Boyceville sophomore has been dealing with injury and illness throughout much of this season, not to mention the pressure of being a defending state champion.

So it should not come as a surprise that Johnson came down with bronchitis and strep throat right before the state wrestling tournament last week.

And to top it off, the health of his younger brother Gunnar, who recently suffered a seizure, has been occupying his thoughts.

Through it all, including a numbing loss in the semifinals Friday, February 27, Johnson has persevered.

Although the shine is not as brilliant as the gold he procured last year, Micah Johnson donned precious medal Saturday evening, Feb. 28 when he accepted the bronze medal in the Kohl Center after placing third earlier that day in the D3, 152-pound weight class with a pair of dominating performances at the 72nd annual WIAA State Wrestling Championships.

Johnson followed a pin in Saturday’s consolation semifinals with a 15-5 victory over Kevin Lansin of Coleman in the third-place match.

“It’s been tough dealing with a cold, bronchitis and strep throat,” Johnson said following his bronzewinning bout.

“I had a fast pin (in consolation semis) which helped and the last match I won 15-5.”

“It was a tough one but I pulled it out and did what I needed to do to finish off the day strong,” added Johnson.

Johnson said the illnesses did have an effect on his preparation for the state tournament.

“I only got one practice in this week,” said Johnson. “So weight cutting was hard to get the weight off.”

“It was a hard experience this week and then last week at sectionals my little brother started having grand mal seizures. It has been a rough past couple of weeks,” stated Johnson.

But character is defined by how one handles adversity and setback and Johnson showed that this weekend.

“It showed a lot today, that is what champions do,” Boyceville head coach Jamie Olson said.

“They bounce back. You just never know after a tough loss, added Olson.

“Look at defending state champ Devin Lemanski last year. He got beat (in the semifinals) and didn’t come back and wrestle, he defaulted out. Micah came back today (Saturday) with a pin and a major against a couple of nice wrestlers and I am proud of that. He responded to a difficult situation and a tough season.”

In the third place match, like the one he had wrestled just an hour and a half before, Johnson went on the attack from the opening whistle.

He racked up a takedown and corresponding two-point near fall and added a reversal by period’s end for a 6-2 lead.

Although he was warned for stalling and surrendered a reversal to Lansin in the first 50 seconds of the middle period, Johnson rebounded to score a reversal to maintain the four-point advantage (8-4) after four minutes of action.

In the final two-minute period, Johnson scored an escape, a pair of takedowns and another two-point near fall to cap a 15-5 victory.

“I’m not satisfied,” said Johnson of the third-place finish. “I definitely wanted to get first place. Not just for me but for my coach and my little brother.”

“But I can’t expect much more, I only had 15 matches in this year before state because of my injuries.”

Johnson missed eight weeks due to a back injury which he said was a joint problem that he will just have to deal with in coming seasons.

“It is hard to come to regionals, sectionals, and state and do what I did last year after not even having a half year of wrestling.”

“But I will definitely be ready for next year and come back stronger,” concluded the Bulldogs’ sophomore.

It took Johnson just 27 seconds to redeem semifinals’ loss from the previous night.

Johnson pinned Chequamegon’s Isaac Weik just 27 seconds into their Division 3 consolation semifinals’ match at 152 pounds.

Johnson had also stuck Weik in the sectional finals a week earlier. That one came in 56 seconds.

At high noon in the Kohl Center, Johnson jumped on Weik as soon as the referee’s whistle blew to start the contest. Johnson grabbed Weik and put him on his back and then readjusted and rolled Weik up onto his shoulders for the quick pin call.

It may have helped to soothe the sting of his loss in the previous night’s semifinal where dreams of a second consecutive state wrestling championship for Johnson were dashed.

Johnson was beaten 4-2 by Scott Pittz of Mineral Point in a Division 3, 152-pound state semifinal.

Ironically, two of Johnson’s three losses this season have come courtesy of Pittz, who also beat Johnson in an overtime bout in early December. The other came at the hands of Chetek-Weyerhaeuser-Prairie Farm’s Johnny Chamberlain, who also lost in his Division 2, 152-pound semifinals’ match.

The Boyceville sophomore started quickly with a takedown just eight seconds into the match and looked charged to take the match and earn a shot at another state title.

But Pittz, a junior, had others ideas.

About a half minute after being taken to the mat, Pittz scored an escape and then, with just a tick left on the first-period clock, completed a reversal to carry a 3-2 advantage into the second period.

After Pittz deferred his choice, Johnson took the down position to start the middle period. Unfortunately, Johnson could never free himself from Pittz’ grip and was even warned for stalling during that two-minute span in which the score remained unchanged.

Pittz took to the mat for the start of the third period and needed just three seconds to get the escape and improve his lead to 4-2.

And that is how it would end as Johnson could not get inside Pittz defenses for a match-tying takedown.

“I got the takedown and even in my first match after the first period the illness kind of took over my body and I couldn’t feel my arms or legs,” said Johnson. “Then my breathing was so hard, it felt like I was swallowing nails almost. I got winded really fast.”

Pittz lost the championship in overtime to Ross Withington of Westby, 3-1.

Micah Johnson’s quest for a second straight state championship stayed on track earlier in the tournament when he claimed a 14-8 win in the D3, 152-pound quarterfinals Friday.

Johnson was in control of the match against Lancaster junior Dustin Reynolds from start to finish.

Johnson scored early and often in the win. All of Reynolds’ points, with the exception of a third-period takedown, came on escapes that Johnson gave him.

It took only 11 seconds for Johnson to break a scoreless opening period. After letting Reynolds up, he took him back down. Then repeated the process in the final 14 second of the first to finish the period with a 6-2 lead.

It was a pattern that Johnson repeated twice more in the second period to build a 10-5 lead.

Johnson made it 12-5 with an escape 18 seconds into the final period. Johnson gave Reynolds the escape 20 seconds later as he looked for his sixth takedown of the match but the Lancaster finally finished an offensive move with his first and only takedown to cut Johnson’s lead to just four points.

But that is as close as Reynolds would get.

After receiving a warning call for stalling, Johnson quickly reversed Reynolds to finish on top in a 14-8 win.

Johnson finished his abbreviated season at 18-3.

“You think about the kid. He sat out most of the season with a bad back, strep throat,  bronchitis or whatever he came down with, he couldn’t breathe down here, he really couldn’t breathe,” said Olson. “We did everything we could to try and get him healthy enough to get out there and go six minutes.”

“Micah has a state title and a third place finish now,” noted Olson. “(He has) two more years to come down…I think this can be a blessing. This maybe will keep him hungry.”