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TOUGH GUYS: Imbler's Daniel Johnson (top) practices his mat moves with a Panther teammate after he finished third at the Muilenburg Tournament despite 14 stitches in his head. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).
TOUGH GUYS: Imbler's Daniel Johnson (top) practices his mat moves with a Panther teammate after he finished third at the Muilenburg Tournament despite 14 stitches in his head. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Imbler's Daniel Johnson was drawn to wrestling because of the singular nature of the sport.

"Wrestling is all individual," he said. "I mean, you know the play itself and what to accomplish and see what to do."

Johnson, a junior, said basketball was not his best sport, so wrestling was an alternative. It helped that his older brother, Eric, started wrestling before him and stirred an interest.

Johnson has been wrestling since the eighth grade.

"Daniel is always very highly motivated and enthusiastic," coach Pat Nearing said. "Wrestling is his primary sport."

Johnson was a state qualifier last season. He said he wants to improve this season and make it better for the others on his team. He wants to look out for the younger kids.

Imbler has six wrestlers. Johnson said the benefits of a small team are a lot of one-on-one time with coaches, knowing teammates better and being a close team outside of wrestling. Sophomore wrestler Jeff Smith is one of his closest friends.

"(Johnson's) got a good attitude and is a hard worker and willing to listen," Nearing said.

This past weekend, Johnson captured third place in the 171-pound weight division at the Muilenburg Tournament in La Grande. While that's newsworthy enough, what made his finish more remarkable is that he won several matches with a slight handicap.

Before the tournament started, he was under the bleachers retrieving head gear for a teammate when he accidentally ran into a cross beam. Johnson needed 14 stitches and went on to win five matches in the tournament, having to wear a large bandage over his head.

"Adrenaline helps a lot," he said about wrestling with the stitches.

"Saturday, he came to wrestle," Nearing said. "He pinned all his matches in the first or second round."

The most important aspect of wrestling is putting in time and effort, Johnson said.

"Truthfully, it's a lot mental," he said. "You have to be committed and self disciplined to be a wrestler."

Last season, Johnson cut weight and after he did that, he said watching people doing the same thing is hard. Johnson said each wrestler wants to be improved, but it is not mandatory to lose weight.

"It's hard to explain to people to get the gist that it's your choice," he said. In addition to wrestling, Johnson plays baseball and football and hunts.

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