Wrestling’s Johnson wins Big Ten Coach of the Year

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Online Poster

By Jon Gluskin

Illinois wrestling added to its hardware collection Sunday. Not only did it win its first Big Ten Championships since 1952, but head coach Mark Johnson was named 2005 Big Ten Coach of the Year..

“I’m not much for that,” Johnson said. “The guys win it – you win the championship, they’re going to give the coach (the award). It’s a nice honor. It’s one that I really think is for my coaching staff. I’ve said this when I recruit. I tell everybody – I think I have the best coaching staff in America. I think it’s really kind of a tribute to all of us, especially the guys because they’re the ones who are going to win or lose those honors for you.”

This was the second time in Johnson’s 13-year career at Illinois that he won the award. He also won it in 2001, taking second in the Big Ten and sending nine wrestlers to the NCAA Championships.

Johnson led the Illini to a 16-1-1 record for the dual meet season, finishing 7-0-1 in the conference and sharing the regular season Big Ten title with Michigan. This was Illinois’ second consecutive title.

Johnson said this year ranks up there at the top in his coaching career.

“Up until this point, as a head coach this is my best year so far,” Johnson said. “But I say that with reservations because you’ve got to finish strong at the National Tournament, because that’s where your credentials are really won and lost, although nobody can take the Big Ten Championships away from you. Because the regular season ones that we’ve won too, they’re not very meaningful if you don’t win the (Big Ten and NCAA) Tournaments.

“Winning the Big Ten Tournament, that’s the accomplishment as a coach here, other than the individual titles that we’ve won. It’s a great reward, especially in our conference where it’s the best top to bottom, the best wrestling conference in America.”

Before coming to Illinois in 1992, Johnson was the head coach at Oregon State (1990-92), an assistant coach at Iowa (1982-90) and a graduate assistant at Iowa (1978-80).

After Johnson was given the trophy on Sunday, it was taken back from him because it will be given to the gymnastics Big Ten Coach of the Year.

“I was like, ‘God, you don’t even get to keep it, they just give it to you in front of people or what?'” Johnson said. “It was comical. We got a kick out of it.”

However, Johnson won’t be going empty-handed; he will be given a personal trophy.