State Champ: Zac Johnson wins state title

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

It’s time to remove the word “nemesis” from Zac Johnson’s dictionary.

Take a black Magic Marker and scratch it right out.

Johnson had a nemesis—a foe he just couldn’t conquer—until Saturday night.front.wrestle

Now it’s Zac Johnson who’s on top.

In a spectacular turn of events, the Morenci senior finally defeated Addison’s Tom Schneider 5-1 in the finals of the Michigan state wrestling tournament to win the Div. IV championship at 189 pounds.

Schneider came into the tournament as the defending champion, looking to cap his high school career with an unbeaten season.

Almost, but not quite, as Johnson became Morenci’s 12th state wrestling champion.

Schneider had notched half a dozen wins against Johnson in the past, including two decisions earlier in the season.

When it came to the final meeting of the two standout seniors, it wasn’t a matter of taking a new strategy into the bout for Johnson. it was more a matter of attitude.

“I got really pumped,” he said. “I got really aggressive. I was trying to take advantage of every second out there.”

That he did, agrees coach Scott Clark.

“Everything Zac did stopped him,” he said. “This time Schneider couldn’t take him down.”

Schneider’s only point came in the first period when Johnson was called for stalling.

“In the second period I put him on his back and got two points,” Johnson said.

He added a point in the third period through an escape, then finished it off.

“The last points were from a take-down and that pretty much sealed it.”

“From start to finish,” Clark said, “he just handled him completely.”

That concluded what Johnson saw as a developing trend. He lost in the county meet by an 8-0 margin, then closed it to 5-2 when Schneider took first in the regional finals.

“I think he knew I was coming for him,” Johnson said. “I was narrowing the gap.”

All of this from a season that nearly didn’t happen.

Johnson decided last year to give basketball a try in his senior season. He still hoped to wrestle on weekends, if he gained the cooperation of coaches.

Then came a case of infectious mononucleosis that eventually led to hospitalization. It also led him back onto the wrestling mat.

“After mono, once I began getting into shape, I decided to wrestle since that’s what I’ve been doing,” he said. “Stick with what you know.”

It took some time to get back into the swing of things and he qualified for the state tournament with an 18-3 record—fewer than half the matches he would have had in a typical season.

But 22-3 will do just fine for this year as he joins other members of his family in wrestling fame. His father, Eric, placed third in the state, his uncle Karl was a champion and his uncle Kurt scored two firsts, a second and a third.

Johnson closes out his career with a 126-20 record—only two of the losses were pins—and a first, second and third in three years of state finals competition.

    – March 14, 2007
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