ELKHART — Always with a smile on his face, Tieshawn Johnson has learned many lessons during his wrestling career, first at West Side Middle School and then at Elkhart Memorial High School.
While using a quick, explosive style, he has learned about takedowns, escapes and angles.
The 195-pound Crimson Charger senior with a 34-0 record heading into the Fort Wayne Semistate Saturday, Feb. 15, at Memorial Coliseum, has also learned humility.
It was a hard lesson punctuated at last year's semistate.
"I went in there way overconfident," said Johnson, who lost in the "ticket" round that would have sent him to the 2013 IHSAA State Finals. "I have to stay humble. I've learned from my mistakes. You can't overlook anyone."
With one last chance in 2014 to join Dan Kratzer (1973 at 145), Aaron Moss (1993 at 135), Nick Iannarelli (1999 at 103), Chris Miller (2004 at 112), Nick Corpe (2005 at 171) and Steve Stahl (2008 at 189) in the pantheon of state wrestling champions from Memorial, Johnson has been extra focused.
That fact hasn't escaped the notice of head coach Jim Iannarelli.
"As he has gone through is career, it has always been about getting himself to a place where he can be proud of himself," said Iannarelli. "In a sport where you can be selfish at times, Tieshawn is selfless. He is always asking questions to perfect his technique. He always looks for ways outside of wrestling to become a better athlete."
Iannarelli knew Johnson as a seventh grader.
"He seemed quiet and timid even at that point in his life, but has led by example the right things to do with your life if you want something," says Iannarelli. "He has endured many struggles along his road to where he is right now, but has taken them all as a reason to put himself in a better place.
"I am exceptionally proud of the man he has become, and I only wish that he continues on this path. I know he will.
"Tieshawn never gives up," Iannarelli added. "He will continue to lead and inspire those around him in whatever aspects of his life he pursues. He’s the kind of kid that makes my job as a coach one of the most rewarding things I do."
Corpe, who has been working out with Johnson and others in 6 a.m. sessions, has been impressed with the effort and the attitude.
"He works hard to improve," says Corpe. "He's very respectful, just a nice kid overall."
A middle linebacker and running back in football, Johnson does not just rely on his natural athleticism as a wrestler. He works on his technique. That includes the handfighting that helps him keep his opponent off-balance.
With Corpe's help, Johnson also works the mental game.
Corpe said the wrestlers who have the most success in the state tournament as the ones who can tame their nerves and continue to do the things that allow them to win.
Johnson wins over many people with his glowing smile.
"I'm always happy," says Johnson. "I just like to smile."
He says he gets that from his mother, Katrina Lewis. Tieshawn was born in Chicago to Katrina and Gregory Johnson and moved to Elkhart in 2003. He attended Roosevelt and Woodland elementary schools before West Side and Memorial. Tieshawn lives with his mother, stepfather Corey, and two litter sisters, K.C. and Kimora.
While he has not committed to a college, Johnson is planning to major in graphic arts.
At Fort Wayne
Saturday, Feb. 15, 8:30 a.m.
106: Blake Glogouski (Fairfield) 37-2; Jaron Katzer (Goshen) 29-10.
113: Scotty Huff (Goshen) 34-4; Eugene Moody-Neukom (Elkhart Memorial) 13-6.
120: Forrest Glogouski (Fairfield) 38-1; DeLawrence Gayfield (Concord) 32-2; Marcus Mejia (Elkhart Memorial) 26-11.
126: Tony Vaughn (Elkhart Memorial) 23-5; Jay Franko (Jimtown) 26-5; Trever Yoder (Fairfield) 32-8.
132: Konner Chafin (Jimtown) 37-2; Joel Byler (Goshen) 27-8.
138: Zeke Torres (Elkhart Central) 19-7; Kenny Kerrn (Jimtown) 24-14.
145: Ryan Baxter (Northridge) 28-2.
152: Chris Morris (Elkhart Memorial) 21-8.
160: Nick Ritchie (Elkhart Memorial) 15-4.
170: Jon Osoria (Elkhart Memorial) 22-8; John Trenshaw (Goshen) 29-4.
182: Evan Smith (Goshen) 27-8; David Eli (Elkhart Memorial) 24-8.
195: Tieshawn Johnson (Elkhart Memorial) 34-0; Ramiro Hernandez (Goshen) 23-12.
220: Eliseo Guerra (Elkhart Central) 30-2; Derek Paz (Goshen) 31-7.
Hwt: Michael Yankosky (Westview) 30-9.
Saturday, Feb. 15, 9:30 a.m.
106: Drew Hildebrandt (Penn) 31-3.
113: Austin Slates (Penn) 33-9.
120: Jarrett Selis (Penn) 25-14.
126: Zack Davis (Penn) 35-2.
138: Jarod Swank (Penn) 33-7; Derek Glon (Marian) 28-5.
145: Tommy Varner (Penn) 30-11.
152: Alex Rinehart (Penn) 33-6.
160: Joey Mammolenti (Penn) 33-2.
170: Chase Osborn (Penn) 33-1.
182: Jeff Wiseman (Penn) 33-6.
195: Kobe Woods (Penn) 36-2.
220: Clayton Stohler (Penn) 30-4.
Hwt: Cory Christman (Penn) 20-7.
Advancement: Top 4 placers in each weight class at each site advances to the first round of the IHSAA State Finals Friday, Feb. 21 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Cost: $7 (each site).
St. Joseph Valley Officials Association: New Castle - Barry Woodward, Craig Bultemeier, Henry Wilk. Fort Wayne - Jeff Colborn. Evansville - Rod Morgan, Roger Griffith.