The sky's the limit for Johnson

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Wrestler Brad Johnson hangs out before practice begins.

Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Wrestler Brad Johnson hangs out before practice begins.


WHO: Brad Johnson

SCHOOL: Douglas High School

YEAR: Senior

WEIGHT CLASS: 140 pounds

RECORD: 20-5 this season, 96-43 career.

ACHIEVEMENTS: Four-time state tournament qualifier, three-time regional runner-up. Douglas team captain. Cumulative grade point average. Air Force Academy nominee.

THIS WEEKEND: NIAA/Las Vegas Review Journal State Championships, Friday and Saturday, Winnemucca Indoor Events Center.


"I would have rather faced the best, and lost to the best like I did, than to have him (Joel Rivadeneyra) drop to another weight. I'm actually kind of proud that I got to face him, to have one of the best wrestlers in the state to wrestle against in the finals. I'll say, I lost fair and square. I'm happy I got to wrestle him because I learned a lot from that six minutes on the mat with him."

For Douglas wrestler Brad Johnson, even the sky's no limit

By Dave Price

Appeal Sports Writer

As far as Douglas High School senior Brad Johnson is concerned, even the sky is no limit.

This is a young man who would like to fly a F/A-22 Raptor Stealthfighter some day, and whose current achievements include a cumulative 3.96 grade point average and position as student body vice-president at Douglas. He also enjoys the distinction of accompanying the school's band to Washington, D.C., for the recent Presidential Inauguration, and a nomination to the Air Force Academy.

That success has also carried over to the wrestling mat because Johnson will be in Winnemucca this weekend to compete at the NIAA/Las Vegas Review Journal State Championships for the fourth straight year. He will try to win his first state medal, but faces a very strong 140-pound weight class. Still, he is shooting for the sky.

"I'd like to come home with the gold medal," Johnson said.

That's the goal and Douglas coach Mark Lilly, who began working with Johnson as a fifth grader in the Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School program, knows this is one wrestler who can never be discounted.

"He is very difficult to score against just because he does not make many mistakes," Lilly said, noting that Johnson has been taken to his back only twice all season. "He always puts himself in good position. He's very cerebral and very careful. He doesn't take many risks, and if he does, they are calculated."

Johnson is a three-time silver medal winner at the Northern 4A Regional Tournament, the most recent coming Saturday when he advanced to the tournament finals before he lost a 9-2 decision against Galena's Joel Rivadeneyra, a two-time state champion. Ironically, Rivadeneyra was seeded into the 140-pound bracket only after his appeal to wrestle in the 130 pound weight class was denied by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

Johnson has no regrets that the appeal was denied. Instead, he welcomed the opportunity to wrestle Rivadeneyra.

"I would have rather faced the best, and lost to the best like I did, than to have him drop to another weight," Johnson said of Rivadeneyra. "I'm actually kind of proud that I got to face one of the best wrestlers in the state in the finals. I'm happy I got to wrestle him because I learned a lot from that six minutes on the mat with him."

Lilly wasn't surprised to hear that.

"He doesn't mind challenges," Lilly said. "He doesn't duck people. He doesn't care who you are or what your record is. That (140 pounds) was where he wanted to wrestle; he knew Rivadeneyra would be there."

No pressure.

"Not at all," Johnson said. "Stepping on the mat, I was like, 'This is my last year of high school wrestling, I've been wrestling for 11 years, and I just want to go out there and have some fun, like I did when I first started wrestling.' I didn't care if I lost, I just wanted to get out there and wrestle the best match I could, and that's what I did."

Oh, by the way, Johnson hopes to get a rematch.

"I'll say, I lost fair and square," he said. "He was just a better wrestler. He's seen more experienced people than I have, he has more mat time than I have. Hopefully, I'll get to see him again at state and see how I match up against him now that I know how he wrestles."

Johnson will not be intimidated by anything he sees at the state tournament. Not after having been there three times before. Not after traveling with the Douglas Marching Band to Washington, D.C., an experience he described as eye-opening.

"To see all the different things," he said. "Like, there were snipers on top of the buildings, I'd never seen that before. We were at Union Station for dinner one time, and it happened to be at the same time (President) Bush was there for a banquet. Everywhere we looked, there were Secret Service, inside the stores or standing by escalators. They had security checks everywhere. It was certainly a lot different from being in lax-Nevada."

Then there was the Inaugural parade itself, which Johnson watched along with the Douglas from a stand located about four blocks from the Capitol.

"We were stationed on the protest block area, so instead of the 'Yea, Bush' side, we got to see the 'No more Bush' part," Johnson said. "We got to see the protests and the riot control come in. It was a different aspect.

"It was an eye opener. You hear about all these things on the news and everything, but you don't really see it in your hometown, then when you get out into bigger places, you get to see the other side of the picture. The big thing that stood out in my mind was seeing someone burn the American flag. I got kind of mad at that, because I love America and I just don't understand why an American would burn an American flag just to protest against Bush."

The Douglas contingent also had a chance to take in some of the sights of the nation's capital, including Mount Vernon and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

"The first day there we went to the Holocaust Museum," Johnson said. "It was probably the most humbling experience, kind of like a giant history lesson which incorporated everything. You got to see the whole story around it and the whole aspect of the war, starting with the rise of Hitler. It was kind of creepy. There were some places where I just had to sit down and just stop because there was so much information being presented, I couldn't take it all in at the time."

That's saying something considering Johnson keeps up a full load of activities. That's one reason he carries a laptop computer with him at school.

"It's the only way I can get all my homework in," he said. "My teachers are very lenient because I have such a busy schedule. The last year I've been kind of busy with wrestling, drama, band, choral group and Madrigals."

Johnson has been nominated for All-State Choir, and if all goes well, he hopes to have his nomination to the Air Force Academy accepted by the end of March.

"The Air Force Academy has always been a dream of mine," he said. "The reason I want to go so much, it's so structured and disciplined, and everyone there has to participate in a sport or extracurricular activity so that everyone is proud to be in the school. I would love to be in that environment."

It might even be in his future.

"I am thinking about going career military. I'd like to fly the F-22 for the Air Force," Johnson said.

So, you see, the sky really is no limit for Johnson's future. The past and present have been pretty good, as well.

"I've had a nice long run here at Douglas," Johnson said. "I've seen so much going through this program. I was the only freshman on the varsity team my freshman year and I got to be part of the (2002 regional) championship team, so I've seen full circle, going from being the only freshman to being one of only two seniors on the varsity team.

"I've seen this team go through some rough times, but we've always been able to train and to bounce back," Johnson said. "The thing I love about wrestling is that the people who wrestle and love wrestling here will do it, no matter what."

Reach Dave Price at 881-1220 or at


If the Air Force Academy doesn't work out, he has applied to the University of Nevada, UNLV and to the Marion Military Institute. His older brothers, Ben and D'art Johnson are both at Nevada. Both were state qualifiers - Ben for Douglas in 1999 and for Carson in 2000, D'art in 2001 and 2002 for Douglas. Their father, Richard Johnson, and Ben are also in the Air Force Reserve (Ben has qualified for the elite Pararescue jumper team).

As a member of the band, Johnson plays the tuba during concert season and the sousaphone during the marching season. "I'm also the truck crew captain, which consists of making sure that when we go places, I have to load all the uniforms and instruments and all the bags and everything on the truck and make sure everything's there, load it and unload it when we get to where we're going."

Moved here on my ninth birthday from Sacramento.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment