DeKALB – Doug Johnson’s answers to questions about his expectations are matter-of-fact.
Johnson didn’t doubt for a second that he’d beat Kaneland’s Esai Ponce, the No. 2 ranked wrestler in the 132-pound division according to illinoismatmen.com, in Thursday’s 50-23 win over Kaneland.
“I don’t think anybody can beat me,” Johnson said quietly. “I don’t have any doubt in my mind that nobody can beat me. I can beat everybody.”
After finishing third in Class 2A at 126 pounds last season, Johnson was frank when asked whether he expected to win the 132-pound division in Class 3A this season.
“For sure,” Johnson said, again in a quiet voice. “Undefeated.”
On a young DeKalb team, Johnson is a confident veteran who coach Mike Pater can count on week-in and week-out, even against the top wrestlers in the state.
Johnson has wrestled in the 138-pound division for much of the season, and he’s 9-0. This summer, he beat three state champion wrestlers on his way to second place at the freestyle state championships.
Thursday, Johnson beat Ponce by major decision, missing a technical fall by one point.
“I felt pretty good today, but I could have wrestled a lot better,” Johnson said. “I need to get going a lot quicker.”
Freshman 106-pounder Parker Stratton, sophomore 126-pounder Jackson Montgomery, and senior 160-pounder Colin Adkins and junior 152-pounder Matt Macarus won by technical fall.
“I feel like we have lots of room to improve,” Pater said, “but any time you wrestle a conference dual, you’re happy to come out with a win.”
The meet wasn’t as lopsided in bouts that actually happened, but Kaneland forfeited four weight classes. Without those four losses of six points, the Knights’ deficit was only three, which was encouraging to coach Monty Jahns. In tournaments, when the emphasis shifts from depth to the top wrestlers, the Knights may be a force be reckoned with.
“We’re satisfied with the way we wrestled,” Jahns said. “We have a lineup with some pretty good individuals and a bunch of open spots.”
Kaneland won the first two bouts of the day when 220-pounder Nick Sharp and 285-pounder Justin Diddell won by fall. Senior 145-pounder Dan Goress won by technical fall.
Goress is ranked fifth in the 145-pound Class 2A division, and he’s one of five Knights ranked in the top 12.
“We just have too many holes in our lineup, but the individuals that we have can do really well in tournaments with pins and [technical falls],” Goress said. “I’d say we can be a very good tournament team.”