By Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
OSAKIS — Devyn Johnson has been working toward this goal since she entered the Osakis wrestling room as a shy girl in middle school almost five years ago.
Johnson was taking on the challenge of being the only girl in the room in a sport dominated by boys. Now as a senior, she is reaping the benefits of sticking with it as she has become a regular in the Osakis varsity lineup at 106 pounds.
“It feels really special to me because growing up I’ve always really idolized the varsity wrestlers,” Johnson said after a match last week against West Central Area. “So it’s just really neat that I can actually become a part of the team now, and I feel like we work really well as a team, so that’s really fun.”
Johnson appreciated the support she always got from her male peers as she came through the program. Instead of making life tough on her, they helped her along. Now it has gotten to the point where they view her as simply a member of the team.
“She’s just one of the teammates and people treat her like that,” head coach Joey Andreasen said. “In the practice room, they don’t treat her any different, and we don’t expect anything different from her. Every time she goes out, we expect her to have a chance to win.”
Johnson had to win a wrestle-off against a handful of other 106-pounders before the season started to earn her spot in the lineup. One of those wrestlers happened to be her brother, freshman Seth Johnson.
“That made for an awkward evening,” she said with a laugh.
Johnson’s record this season was 15-15 after a win against Paynesville on Monday night, but she tries to wrestle smart whether she wins or loses. Johnson knows she is in for a challenge every time she steps on the mat against boys who often have the physical advantage on her when they weigh in right at that 106-pound mark.
She faced off against one of those opponents Jan. 31 in West Central Area’s Jake Nohre. Nohre won the match, but Andreasen said his hope was that Johnson would avoid a pin or a tech fall so Osakis would not fall behind 6-0. She did that in a match that ended 16-8.
“We look at that as, instead of giving up four points, she gained us two points from not getting pinned,” Andreasen said. “Whenever she wrestles a full-sized 106-pounder, she struggles because she’s not very tall … basically anyone she wrestles under 102 pounds, she’s probably going to win. She’s quite an asset to our team.”
That’s exactly what Johnson wanted to be for this group when she started her wrestling career years ago. Now that she’s here, she’s enjoying every minute of it.
“I think a lot of people on the team respect me,” she said. “I don’t know if I stand as an authority figure, but I do want to be there for my team when I need to. I think we’re all really supportive of each other, so that’s really nice. It was something that I always hoped for so it’s kind of like a relief to finally be here.”