The Classical Academy wrestler Nathan Johns' senior year didn't go as smoothly as he had hoped.

It started with a right MCL tear that kept him out of the first half of the season.

When he came back on the mat, he dominated. He stayed undefeated until a couple of weeks before the Class 3A tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver. But two days before appearing on the state's biggest stage, he hurt his left knee.

That forced him to wrestle with two knee braces on.

His circumstances didn't appear to matter much as he successfully completed back-to-back state title campaigns. In his final high school match, Johns beat Glenwood Springs junior Amos Wilson in a 6-1 decision at 182 pounds.

"The Lord has blessed me a lot," Johns said.


Nathan Jones of TCA, state champion in the 182-pound weight class, poses for a portrait as he was named the Peak Performer of the Year, at The Classical Academy on Thursday, March 21, 2019 in Colorado Springs. (Photo by Dougal Brownlie, The Gazette).

His effort landed him this year's Gazette Preps Wrestling Upper Weights Peak Performer of the Year.

Johns contributed his success to his strong Christian faith.

He said he believes he couldn't have overcome his injuries without his faith in God. He kept going and going, even when things didn't go his way. Just weeks before the state tournament, he suffered his first — and only — loss of the season to Air Academy's Brady Badwound on a last-second takedown.

"It's not about the wins and losses," said Johns, who finished his senior season with a 35-1 record. "It's about glorifying God with the opportunity and talent God has given me. So I was able to go out there with a lot less stress I'd have had if I worried about the wins and losses."

He entered this season with boulder-size expectations.

As a junior, he beat Valley's Josh Flanagan on a last-second reversal at the state tournament. Immediately, he pointed his finger toward the sky. He knew the state title placed a target on his back.

"It was pretty stressful," Johns said. "Everyone expected me to go out there and win again."

After a delayed start to his final season, he eventually got back into shape and regained his endurance. It showed at the state tournament, as he prevailed with a pin and two close decisions before he faced Wilson, the Glenwood Springs wrestler, in the title match, won and pointed his finger toward the sky.

But now, he can focus on school.

He doesn't plan to wrestle competitively at college. He wants to continue making good grades as he has never gotten anything but an A since he started going to school.

He wants to study electrical engineering.

And he wants to continue on by keeping God first.

Chhun Sun is a sports reporter with an emphasis in preps. He joined The Gazette in April 2015 and covered public safety for three years before joining @gazettepreps staff. The Thailand-born Cambodian-American has been in journalism for nearly two decades.

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