A fixture in the corner of dozens of athletes throughout his coaching career — and a World-caliber wrestler himself before that — James Johnson’s influence is impossible to miss.
You see it on the faces of the current generation who wear the Sunkist name on their singlets; and there isn’t a Senior coach in the country who will exit a conversation without Johnson’s own name being brought up for one reason or another. He just seemed to be everywhere. Always around. Always involved. Always joyful to play a role in the sport, and constantly excited to shepherd the next wave of hopefuls who are attempting to forge their own journeys to greatness.
That’s why when the news broke late last night that Johnson had unexpectedly passed away, an enormous sense of loss immediately flooded the USA Greco-Roman community.
National-level wrestling breeds close familial bonds. This is especially true in American Greco given its status as an echo chamber. Coaches tutor athletes from other clubs, rivals room together overseas, and it all happens because even though times change and athletes come and go, the cause never ceases to be bigger than any one individual. And should that directive ever require a reminder, there are voices available to bring everyone back onto the same page. Johnson was one of those voices.
More than that, his presence was simple. It was easy and welcoming to be in his space. Athletes who never even had “JJ” as a coach were crying last night because they couldn’t help but remember yarns spun on trips to Europe, or dinners after events in Vegas. Fellow coaches who battled wits with Johnson from opposing corners were similarly affected and grasping for answers.
There are no answers. Only loss.
A loss that will reverberate most with the family Johnson loved more than anything else in the world. Johnson leaves behind two young children — a daughter, Isabella; and a son, Fabian. He also leaves behind all of us who were fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him…talked a little wrestling with him…or simply received a smile from him.
James Johnson was 61 years-old, and now remains forever in our hearts.
2019 World Championships Schedule
Greco-Roman blasts open the 2019 World Championships from Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan Saturday morning with four weight classes (55, 63, 72, and 82 kg) right off the bat before trimming down to three weight classes for Sunday and Monday. Remember: it is a two-day format; athletes who become medal-eligible on their first day go again the next day.
For those who plan on watching live, there is a steep time difference for which to account as Nur-Sultan is +10 hours ET. The tournament will be available to view on Trackwrestling.com (subscription required).
Saturday, September 14 (Day 1)
11:00am-4:00pm — Qualification rounds (55 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg, & 82 kg)
6:00pm-7:30pm — Semifinals
Sunday, September 15 (Day 2)
11:00am-4:00pm — Qualification rounds (67 kg, 87 kg, & 97 kg)
11:00am-4:00pm — Repechage (55 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg, & 82 kg)
6:00pm-6:45pm — Semifinals (67 kg, 87 kg, & 97 kg)
8:00pm-10:00pm — Finals/bronze medal round (55 kg, 63 kg, 72 kg, & 82 kg)
Monday, September 16 (Day 3)
11:00am-4:00pm — Qualification rounds (60 kg, 77 kg, & 130 kg)
11:00am-4:00pm — Repechage (67 kg, 87 kg, & 97 kg)
5:00pm-5:45pm — Semifinals (60 kg, 77 kg, & 97 kg)
6:00pm-8:30pm — Finals/bronze medal round (67 kg, 87 kg, & 97 kg)
Tuesday, September 17 (Day 4)
11:00am-3:00pm — Repechage (60 kg, 77 kg, & 130 kg)
6:00pm-8:30pm — Finals/bronze medal round (60 kg, 87 kg, & 97 kg)
The first of our official previews was released yesterday with a listing of all prior Senior medalists slated to compete in Nur-Sultan.
Coming up next are isolated previews — but not via weight class. Instead, previews will be focused on the days. The first, which covers the Day 1 weight classes (55, 63, 72, & 82 kg) will be made available Wednesday, and the rest in succession.
As for the tournament itself, here is what we have in store:
- Live results on our social media channels.
- Post-session blow-by-blow recaps.
- Nate Engel on-site with updates and behind-the-scenes info.