Moving to a new state and high school can be tough on a teenager. If that teen is an athlete, the possibility for complications may multiply.
Zachary junior wrestler Sam Johnson is more than just an exception to this unspoken rule. He has been exceptional.
Johnson has a 28-1 record with 23 pins while competing in the 145-pound weight class. He is expected to be the No. 2 seed in his weight class for the area’s most prestigious tournament, the Louisiana Classic, which runs Friday and Saturday at Baton Rouge Community College.
The tournament will give Johnson another chance to compare wrestling in Louisiana to that in Michigan, the state his family moved from last March.
“Wrestling is more of a main sport in Michigan,” Johnson said. “I’ve been wrestling since I was 7 years old. I was on travel teams, and I was wrestling all year.”
Johnson had an 80-20 Division II varsity record in two seasons in Michigan. He competed at 119 pounds as a freshman and at and 135 to 140 as a sophomore.
The 5-foot-9 Johnson has already won individual titles in the Central and Dutchtown meets and was a runner-up at St. Michael’s Warrior Open. He’ll play golf later for the Broncos.
Mark Moreau, Zachary’s 10th-year coach, said Johnson is one of the best wrestlers he’s coached at the school.
“Sam is a good kid who is humble,” Moreau said. “He’s very aggressive. He understands how Louisiana wrestling is different than what he was used to and has learned to adapt.
“He’s really helped us in our practice room and has shared tips with the guys.”
Johnson said he often practices against senior teammate Nick Wallis, who competes in the 170-pound category.
“Nick is really strong, and we’ve both helped each other get better,” Johnson said. “Coach Moreau has helped our team improve. He’s a go-getter guy and wants us to give 100- percent effort.”
Brother Martin senior Mason Williams is expected to be the top seed at 145. Williams and Johnson have never faced each other, and Johnson relishes the challenge.
Johnson said he prefers to attack on offense but has defensive moves when needed.
“I try to break their hold,” he said. “I’m pretty fast. I know this is a big meet. I’m looking forward to it.”
So what does Johnson like best about his new state?
“I like the weather better when it’s warm, and the hospitality,” he said.