By Marc Ridgell ‘19
Wrestlers Paul Gliva, Hassan Johnson, Dominic Murphy, and Myles Ruffin competed in the IHSA state wrestling tournament February 15-17 at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In the announcements during school on February 14, the daily announcer said “Good luck Crusader matmen with your quest of bringing home the gold!” Little did we know, that would actually come true for the Crusader community, especially given the hard work and dedication from Brother Rice’s own, Hassan Johnson.
Hassan Johnson, a senior at Brother Rice High School, is more than just a wrestler; he is an IHSA wrestling state-champion. In the 2A 120-weight class, he used his dedication to place number one in the state. Paul Gliva, another senior, placed number three in the state in the 2A 170-weight class.
One may think that to strategically conquer your opponent on the mat to win state for wrestling, one must have no fear. However, for Hassan Johnson, that was not the case. He said, “I was nervous, happy, and excited. My stomach dropped because of the lights and the people. When I went out onto the mat, the nervousness just went away, and I focused on winning and wrestling.”
Paul Gliva, who won third in state for his weight class, said, “The wrestle back match to decide if I place or not was pretty nerve wracking. I was confident though since I have beaten this opponent three times this season already. However, they were all close matches and he changed his strategy each match.”
Dominic Murphy, a junior from Brother Rice High School who also went to state, said, “I felt a little bit nervous, which was good, so I knew I had to give it my all every match.”
Any high school student accomplishing a state-recognized award is not easy; it takes a lot of hard work. Similarly, this was the case for Hassan Johnson, who said, “I practice off season and over the summer. It took a lot of hard work over the summer and it just paid off during the season. I practice right after school for three hours and then I go later and practice for two hours there [at a different practice site].” Because he dedicated his time and effort, colleges now are recruiting him.
Hassan Johnson did not take all of the credit for winning this championship; he humbly gave appreciation to those who have impacted him this season. One coach that was featured on the back of the wrestling t-shirts was wrestling coach, the late Bill Weick.
Hassan discussed Coach Weick’s contributions to the wrestling program: “Coach Bill Weick. He coached a lot of great guys who coached me. He was one of the best coaches around. I wished he could have seen me win the championship.”
Hassan also talked about how his wrestling partners impacted him: “It was like a family. They looked up to me, I looked up to them. They looked up to me as a leader, as the big brother. I feel kind of sad [that this is my last season], but I know I’m going to have to move on.”
All in all, when Hassan Johnson won state, it was more than just his physical strength, but also it was his emotional state, that allowed him to have the mindset to wrestle his best on the mat.
As a final remark, Hassan gave advice to athletes trying to reach a goal: “Work hard. Work harder. Listen to your coaches. Just listen to your coaches. Everything will come in play.” What we should all take from Hassan’s insight is that we should be dedicated to our end goal of whichever accomplishment we yearn to achieve and that we should appreciate our supporters.
Congratulations to Hassan Johnson for accomplishing this milestone in his high school athletic career.