The Osakis wrestling program has found its next head coach, at least for one season.

Osakis’ Doug Johnson has been a key figure in helping build numbers at the youth levels of wrestling within the Silverstreaks program. Now he will get a chance to lead the varsity team after being approved by the school board as the interim head coach last week.

“I’m really excited. It’s kind of a dream job for me,” Johnson said. “I’ve been involved with wrestling most of my life. Both of my kids wrestled. My daughter, (Devyn Johnson), was a two-time Pan-American wrestler. My son, (Seth Johnson), made it to state and he coached the elementary program with me for a couple of years. It’s really exciting.”

Osakis' Doug Johnson (background) coaches from the side of the mat as his daughter, Devyn Johnson (top), wrestles her way to her first national championship in her weight class in 2009. Doug Johnson is getting his first chance to lead a varsity program next winter as he takes over as the interim head coach for Osakis wrestling. (Contributed photo)
Osakis' Doug Johnson (background) coaches from the side of the mat as his daughter, Devyn Johnson (top), wrestles her way to her first national championship in her weight class in 2009. Doug Johnson is getting his first chance to lead a varsity program next winter as he takes over as the interim head coach for Osakis wrestling. (Contributed photo)

The Osakis School District has multiple positions that are likely to open up after the next academic year due to retirements. Coaching and teaching positions generally tie together well, so Johnson was hired on an interim basis with the position likely to be looked at again after next season. He was happy to step in and get his shot leading his first varsity program.

“I would love to do it this year and see where it goes,” Johnson said. “I would love to coach the high school program for years to come if the opportunity is there for me. I told them straight up that if they want to hire somebody who’s in the district and they’re a good coach, I’ll gladly step away. I’m just trying to do what I feel is best for the kids in the community and the program.”

Johnson works full time as a chainsaw carver and said his busiest times of the year are in the spring, summer and fall. That made taking over a winter program like wrestling an ideal fit.

Johnson said he does not have a long history of holding official coaching positions in the sport. In addition to helping out with the youth program in Osakis, much of his time from the side of the mat has been assisting through programs his kids were involved in growing up. That includes working with the girls national team when his daughter wrestled.

“(Wrestling) has been a passion of mine,” Johnson said. “I just think there’s so many life lessons in the sport. I really feel it’s good for the kids. It teaches them how to win, how to lose, how to be teammates. All those things that sound cliche, but they are true. They’ve helped develop my kids into great people, and I’ve seen them develop other kids into just awesome people in the community.”

Johnson said athletes who are in his wrestling program can expect someone who will work them hard, while also showing them how much he cares for them.

“We’ve been able to really build up the youth program, and I think it’s partly because the kids and parents, you can’t (trick them),” Johnson said. “They know if you care or if you don’t. We’ve gone from 20-some kids the first year to we had 67 kids in our youth program this year. I think that’s all because they do believe that I care about them. I think that’s probably my strongest point of being a coach. They know I’m there for them, and we’ll do this together.”

Johnson said his goals for this upcoming season won’t revolve around wins and losses in what he called a rebuilding period for Osakis wrestling. Next winter will be much more about continuing to build this team and this program.

“We’ve got some awesome assistant coaches. Justin George has been there for nine years, and I’m really excited to work with him,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t do this job without Justin George. His support is really important to me. He’s been a big part of the youth program alongside me, and I think we’re just going to do a lot of the same things that we did at the youth level. I know it’s different at the high school level, but it’s team building and being part of something.”