MHS wrestler Elleni Johnson wins by pin at Utah All-Star Dual meet
Jan 29, 2019 10:43AM
● By Carl Fauver
Hillcrest Junior High ninth grader Elleni Johnson pins her opponent, a senior, during the Utah All-Star Wrestling Dual meet. (Cindy S. Johnson)
By Carl Fauver | firstname.lastname@example.org
A freshman represented the Murray High School wrestling team at last month’s 19th annual Utah All-Star Wrestling Dual meet in the UCCU Center at Orem’s Utah Valley University.
Elleni Johnson – Spartan head coach Theros Johnson’s daughter – was one of 13 female wrestlers invited to the prestigious mid-season meet, as the number of girls in the event doubled from a year ago, the first time young women were included.
An odd number of females participated in the event because one of them was matched against a male wrestler.
Wrestling at 132 pounds, Elleni went up against Mia May of West High School, pinning the Salt Lake senior in the second round.
The Hillcrest Junior High School ninth grader is undefeated this winter, 6-0, in matches against other girls.
“I love wrestling so it was fun to win the match,” Elleni said. “I have been working hard to improve.”
“I was super excited – the whole crowd was excited – it (the Orem event center) was a very good setting for the meet,” Elleni’s father added. “But the event was also a little bittersweet, because we both know Mia well. It was tough to see her lose. Both these girls are great examples of competitiveness and sportsmanship.”
Johnson coached his daughter for her lone match in the exhibition dual meet, as he has all season at the helm of the Murray High wrestling program.
During the Spartans season – as the team’s only female wrestler – Elleni lost her only varsity match to a boy, but has won several JV matches against male opponents.
“It is so cool to see all of Elleni’s hard work begin to pay off for her,” Johnson continued. “It has also made me look back and kind of smile. When the kids were younger, I only ever envisioned my sons getting involved in wrestling. Then when Elleni decided to do it – and has stuck with it – I had to switch gears in my thinking.”
The coach and his daughter admit that she struggled during her first two seasons on the mat, as she also continued to perform for her junior high school dance team.
But Johnson describes two weeks for his daughter – last summer, in Oregon – as “the turning point in her wrestling life.”
“Elleni attended the Jay Robinson Intensive Wrestling camp, 14 days of getting up early, working hard all day and following all of the camp rules perfectly,” Johnson said. “If you are not truly serious about wrestling, this camp will teach you that.”
The older Johnson would know, having attended the camp himself back in 1991.
“The camp taught me how much harder I could work to get better and made me more determined to succeed,” Elleni said. “At the camp we had 4-mile runs, carrying weights, and then conditioning practices all through the day. There were about 200 boys at the camp and only four girls.”
To further concentrate on her wrestling development, Elleni chose not to compete for her junior high dance team this fall.
“I think I like winning,” she said. “With dance there aren’t actually any winners or losers.”
In the midst of all her time wrestling, Elleni is also a member of the Murray High School swim team this winter.
“I am not varsity; but I do swim the 50 freestyle and participate in a couple of relays,” Elleni added. “I thought it would be a different way to exercise my body. When there is a conflict between the two sports, I wrestle.”
Lest you think there is no place to move forward as a skilled female wrestler, the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) begs to differ. It boasts 38 member schools, each fielding all-female wrestling teams, with most of the athletes competing under scholarship. Elleni and her dad are both pleased by that prospect.
“Elleni has some lofty goals and may even leave high school early if a college wrestling opportunity comes,” Johnson said. “She wants to get into a competitive program.”
“I have no idea yet, where I might want to go to wrestle in college,” Elleni concluded. “But I do think I might want to move a distance away, to experience life in another part of the country.”