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While this weekend marked the official end of the wrestling season with the NCAA championships last weekend, it also marked the end of a distinguished career for one of Harvard’s very own. The Crimson’s lone competitor in the championships, senior captain Josef Johnson, capped off his wrestling career at Quicken Loans Arena after a fifth-place finish in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association Championships earned him a trip to the Cleveland, Ohio tournament to compete in the 174-pound class.
Johnson’s outstanding run came to an end in the consolation round of eight in the championships as he fell to senior David Kocer of South Dakota State. The loss came after a close matchup with the No. 14 ranked wrestler in the nation, Oklahoma senior Yoanse Mejias, in the round of 16. After Mejias tied in the third period, Johnson came back with the win in sudden victory to advance to the round of eight before falling by major decision in the subsequent round.
Johnson started the tournament with a tough matchup against the No. 4 ranked wrestler, junior Jordan Kutler of Lehigh. A close battle throughout the entire match ultimately resulted in a 2-0 decision in favor of Kutler with Johnson going scoreless in all three periods.
In Johnson’s first consolation round, the Piscataway, N.J., native took down sophomore Joseph Gunther of Iowa, resulting in a 3-1 decision in favor of Johnson. Gunther took the early lead with a quick escape to go up 1-0 before Johnson later tied heading into the third period. Johnson was dominant in the frame, registering a takedown and holding Gunther scoreless for the period.
In no way was Johnson new to success in the NCAA tournament. This year’s appearance marked his third in as many years. In his freshman season, he earned the Harvard wrestling team’s "Most Promising Freshman Award." In his sophomore campaign, he won a total of 17 matches and another team award, this time for most improved wrestler. His performances earned him NCAA qualifications for the first time as well.
Junior year showed even more improvement. Johnson posted a 30-13 record en route to another NCAA tournament appearance. He earned his captain title as well. Johnson’s senior year brought more of the same with a 29-13 record as well as two COOP student-athlete of the week honors.
Johnson finishes his career 92-56 record overall. Coach Jay Weiss praised Johnson for his contributions to the team throughout his four years.
"He's done everything the right way since he stepped on campus, and has made his mark on the program with leaderships, work ethic, and friendship," Weiss said. "I am extremely proud of everything he has done for the Harvard wrestling program."
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