By STEVE KRAH
Jonyvan Johnson will tell you he’s “got a lot going on” in his life.
The New Haven High School senior is among the best wrestlers in Indiana.
Through the New Haven/Bill Kerbel Invitational Saturday, Jan. 6, Johnson is 28-1 for the 2017-18 season.
After a first-round bye, Johnson pinned three opponents to reign at 182 pounds at the Kerbel meet. He competed at 195 during the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association State Duals Dec. 23 in Fort Wayne.
An IHSAA State Finals qualifier at 170 pounds as a junior, Johnson’s lone loss as a senior is a 4-2 decision against Northridge senior Conner Graber . Graber placed seventh in Indiana at 182 in 2017.
“Things have been tough recently,” says Johnson of life away from the circle.
On — two months before the current wrestling season — Johnson lost stepfather Romauld Solomon to suicide.
Since Jonyvan was about 7, Romauld was the main man in his life.
He’s the one who encouraged him to take up wrestle as a sixth grader.
“It hurts to see him go, but I’ve got to just focus on myself and keep pushing forward because that’s what he’d want me to do,” says Johnson. “I know what I want. I know what I’ve got to do to get there. So I’m going to just keep focused.”
Reluctant about wrestling at the beginning, but encouraged by his stepfather, the young grappler won a Lutheran Schools Athletic Association championship during that first year on the mat.
Johnson now shares a house with mother Jamie Solomon, cousins Mattie and Mason Johnson and friend Jordan McHaney.
Jonyvan says his mother adopted Mattie and Mason with their mother deceased and father in prison. McHaney was kicked out of his house.
Back at New Haven, Jonyvan is Bulldogs captain.
“I try to set the tone when it comes to discipline,” says Johnson. “It’s working hard in the room, being on-time — little things like that. It can make a big difference on the mat.”
What makes Jonyvan Johnson so good?
“His work ethic,” says James Linn, who is in his fifth season as New Haven head coach after 10 seasons as a Barry Humble assistant. “He’s very dedicated in the weight room. He’s extremely strong.”
Linn looks at Johnson and sees few weaknesses.
“He’s good on his feet,” says Linn. “He’s a good top wrestler. He’s able to hold people down when he needs to. He’s a good leg rider. He’s very explosive off the bottom. It’s hard to hold him down.”
Senior 195-pounder Jaxson Savieo is Johnson’s primary workout partner. They push each other not only on the mat, but in the weight room, on the track during conditioning and in the classroom.
“We love to work hard,” says Johnson of himself and Savieo. “We love to push each other hard. We love to compete.
“We try to make each other better in everything we’re doing.”
Since last season, Johnson has improved by putting in the practice room time and going to places like Virginia Beach and the Disney Duals.
“I’ve definitely worked a lot on conditioning and getting my lungs right,” says Johnson. “I’ve also worked a lot on technique and getting little things right. Everyone has go-to moves in certain positions. I usually try to stick to those moves. If they don’t work, then I have other things I can go to.
“My mindset is thinking I can win every match. It’s not being too cocky, but being confident about it.”
Johnson says he plans to go to college and is undecided on his area of study or if he will continue to wrestle.
But right now he is focused on finishing strong in his final high school season.