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January 30, 2013

Pioneer’s Izaak Johnson is aiming for state finals berth

It’s been quite a postseason thus far for Pioneer senior wrestler Izaak Johnson, and he hopes it has just begun.

Johnson was able to repeat as the 106-pound champion of the Midwest Conference and the Twin Lakes Sectional the last two weekends.

Next up is Saturday’s Logansport Regional, where he needs a top four finish to qualify for the Merrillville Semistate.

Johnson’s ultimate goal is to reach the state finals for the first time in his career. First-year Pioneer coach Dan Harder is looking for just that to happen.

“Like I keep telling him, he’s taking me to state, I’m not taking him,” Harder said.

Johnson won the sectional title last year but did not compete at the regional due to having a rash known as mat burn.

This season Johnson has been wrestling better than ever and was named the MWC Wrestler of the Year.

“I was surprised to get voted on by the coaches for that,” Johnson said.

While Johnson has flourished individually, as a team the Panthers have struggled. They did have one other wrestler advance to the regional in senior Jakob Mersch at 138 pounds.

“We have low numbers, a lot of injuries throughout the season,” Johnson said.

Said Harder: “We’re rebuilding the program, kind of starting from the ground up. We’re trying to get an elementary program together and go from there.”

Johnson enters the regional with a 40-3 record on the season. All three of his losses have come at the 113-pound weight class, as he’s undefeated on the year when wrestling at 106.

“He’s been really good at making weight this year. It is a challenge for him, but he’s made it almost every time,” Harder said. “The only problem he had with it was after Christmas break. That’s the only complaint I have is him getting on weight.”

The following is a question-and-answer session with Johnson.

Q. Of the sports you play, which is your favorite? Why?

A. Wrestling, because it is the most physically demanding sport and its all individual, so if you lose you can’t blame it on someone else.

Q. How did you first get started in sports? At what age?

A. I got started with baseball when I was age 6.

Q. Do you have any family members who played sports?

A. My uncle [Blake Wireman] was a wrestler in  the 103-pound weight class.

Q. Have you ever played a sport that you were not successful at?

A. I wasn’t too successful at basketball due to my height.

Q. How do you feel you’ve improved as an athlete since you first started playing?

A. I feel I’m a better athlete and person by being in extra curricular activities when I could have been doing worse things.

Q. Who do you consider your biggest role model? Why?

A. My biggest role model would be my dad [Michael], because of all the time and effort he has put into my sports.

Q. What experiences have you had in sports have made you the athlete you are today?

A. Winning conference and sectionals my junior year really put in perspective what I was capable of if I worked hard.

Q. What is something that not everyone knows about you?

A. I love to work on cars and engines.

Q. What is your favorite memory of playing sports at your school?

A. Warming up with the team junior year at sectionals just goofing off.

Q. What’s your favorite music, movie, TV show, etc.?

A. Band: Theory of a Deadman. Movie: 21 Jump Street. TV show: Brickleberry. Book: None. Sports team: New Orleans Saints.

Q. Who is the best athlete in your respective sport you’ve ever gone up against?

A. Paul Petrov from Hanover Central my freshman year.

Q. What are your goals for your future? Do you plan on attending college?

A. Go to college for something automotive related.

Each week during the school year the Pharos-Tribune recognizes an athlete from one of five area high schools. The recipients are selected by each school’s athletic department.

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