LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - From De Soto to Division 3's top national ranking. Former high school wrestling and football standout Chad Johnson said his success in the Coulee Region prepared him well for the next level.
"The target's on me," he said. "I like stepping out there and rising to the occasion."
He's nicknamed "Ocho-cinco" like the NFL star of the same name, but this Chad Johnson lives up to his hype. The Augsburg College sophomore is ranked first in the country at 285 pounds. Still, he hasn't forgotten his humble beginnings.
"I always had good training partners in high school, and a lot of it goes back to the support staff that I had," said Johnson.
Hailing from Ferryville, Wisconsin, Johnson grew up wrestling and playing high school football at De Soto--a program that made waves in the WIAA during his time there.
"[It was] just the community support that I had," he said. "It's given me the drive to keep pushing."
Johnson pushed his way to two individual state wrestling titles in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and as a defensive end, he helped push Pirates football to consecutive state semifinal games. That also earned him the recognition of being named to the 2nd team all-state in 2009.
Now his younger brothers fly the Pirates flag. And although he can only watch "through the phone," as he put it, Johnson said his family still fuels each others' drive.
He said, "We all 3 understand one another. The younger one's a little green behind the ears yet; he'll get there. But, to have [wrestling] be such a big thing--they're very supportive."
That support makes his returns to wrestling in the La Crosse area even more special.
"I had to try and tell myself to worry about Wartburg 1st," Johnson added.
Despite getting an individual win over UW-L, Johnson's competitive nature won't allow him to dwell on past accomplishments.
"The #1 ranking's nice, but it doesn't mean anything right now--until we get to the tournament," he said. "We'll see then."
We certainly will.