Osakis' Devyn Johnson wins national wrestling titleThe Osakis 7th grader dominated in a traditionally male sporting event
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
It takes a lot of determination for a girl to take on a sport that is traditionally dominated by male athletes – especially at only 8 years old.
Osakis’ Devyn Johnson did just that when she talked her parents into letting her join wrestling in 3rd grade. Now five years later, her dedication to the sport has resulted in a national championship.
Johnson, a 7th grader at Osakis, traveled to Eastern Michigan University with her uncle and her father on March 21-22 to take part in the United States Girls Wrestling Association National Championships. The event featured almost 700 of the top amateur female wrestlers from around the country. Johnson proved to be the best of the best in her 70-pound weight class by winning four matches to take the title.
“I was really excited,” she said. “It felt like all the hard work had finally paid off for me.”
The hard work started even before she ever hit the mat five years ago. Talking her parents into letting her join was the first hurdle she had to clear. Her father, Doug, wrestled through high school and was not sure how his daughter would hold up in the sport.
“She had been asking me since kindergarten if she could join wrestling,” he said. “But they kept telling her ‘no, no, no, you can’t wrestle.’ That was in kindergarten and 1st grade, so I told her if they ever open it up to girls I will let you wrestle. Well, then one day she comes running up to me and says ‘Dad, guess what. They said I can wrestle.’
“I was not up for her to be a wrestler. I just thought she would get brutalized, but she really has a knack for it. The biggest thing is that she has such a drive for it. She just loves to wrestle.”
It is that passion that has driven her to keep at it. At only 66 pounds, Johnson is at a disadvantage every time she steps on the mat in practice and in meets around the area. Her wrestling partners all outweigh her by 30-40 pounds right now. While that may discourage most people, Johnson looks at it as an opportunity to improve.
“Considering she is giving up like 40 pounds in the practice rounds, I would say she does pretty stinkin’ well,” Osakis varsity coach Kyle Kostrzewski said. “Her technique is outstanding. She is a lot better than some of the guys in the room. She pays attention to what is going on really well. She asks questions and is always working to get better.”
Going up against the guys has not always been easy but it was beneficial for her when she wrestled against girls in her own weight class at the national championships. Johnson also practices a lot at home by wrestling her 10-year-old brother, Seth. The work she put in helped her to win the national title with ease.
She won the championship match with a 15-3 major decision. Her first two wins came by pins in 3:30 and 1:30 before winning by decision, 13-5, in the semifinals.
“Sometimes I feel a little shy, but they seem to accept me pretty well,” Johnson said about going against the boys. “I think it made me a lot stronger and just kind of tougher.”
Her national title is the first in what Johnson hopes is a long list of accomplishments in wrestling. She has set her sights as high as they can go, even mentioning the Olympics a lot to her father.
“She is always asking me, ‘Dad, what do you think my odds are of getting to the Olympics,’ ” Doug said. “I am honest with her. I tell her they are slim to none, but if you don’t try you have no chance.”
Fulda-Murray County Central wrestler Elissa Reinsma made history earlier this year by becoming the first girl to ever qualify for the Minnesota State Wrestling Tournament. That has also served as inspiration to Johnson as she tries to work her way up to the varsity level.
It won’t be easy. Not because she does not have the ability, but because of her weight. Wrestlers have to weigh at least 89 pounds to wrestle in the 103-pound weight class on varsity. Johnson has to gain more than 20 pounds before she reaches that.
“She won matches against kids that were 100 pounds in JV this year,” Kostrzewski said. “If she gains weight I think she can be an integral part to the varsity team. It is just a matter of whether or not she has the frame to gain that weight. I hope it happens cause she is a very good wrestler.”