Eyes on the prize

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Posted: Saturday, January 25, 2014 12:00 am

Things seem easy for Bellevue East’s Johnny Porter this season. The senior is undefeated at 18-0 on the season and is the top-ranked 160-pound wrestler in Class A.

It’s easy to focus on what you can see, but what you can’t see is what makes Porter such a force on the mat.

“He is the hardest worker I have coached in my 32 years of coaching,” Todd Porter, East’s coach and Johnny’s father, said. “His work ethic and drive to be great are special.”

Johnny has always been a diligent worker when it comes to wrestling, but after his freshman season he decided he wasn’t going to settle.

“My freshman year, I went 22-17 and 0-2 at state,” Johnny said. “Going 0-2 in state made me realize that I’m not going to accept being beat around anymore.”

His dedication led him to quit baseball, his favorite sport growing up, so he could wrestle during the summer and coming into last fall he quit football, despite already being a starting linebacker his junior year.

The decision to quit football has already paid off for Johnny. The fall full of wrestling was huge for his development. He wrestles at the Monarch Wrestling Academy in Papillion in the off-season and does most of hit work with former UNO stand-out Eli Dominguez. This fall, Dominguez and others at MWA were training for the Victory Wrestling Challenge at the Ralston Arena, so Johnny was there to train with them.

“This fall was the most I have ever improved as a wrestler,” Johnny said. “They’ll stop and focus on my technique. It’s nice to know what I’m doing wrong so I can fix it.”

Dominguez also instilled an attitude in Johnny to always strive to get better. Johnny has adopted Dominguez’s advice to improve 1 percent each day.

For the Porters, everything has built up for this year, and so far, it hasn’t disappointed. Johnny has already set the career wins record at East, as well as the career and season take down records.

“It’s been a long time coming for Johnny,” Todd said. “I’d like to say I’m surprised by it, but he’s put in the work in to earn what he’s done.

“He’s improved every year as a wrestler, and he’ll do anything to get better.”

Johnny’s work ethic has vaulted him into the top spot in his 160-pound weight class and the early favorite in the state tournament.

After medaling the last two seasons (sixth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior), Johnny isn’t satified with just making state anymore.

“Having that experience, I think it’s a huge advantage for state,” Johnny said. “Some guys are just happy to be there, but my expectations are much higher.”

His coach knows Johnny is the favorite and the state crown is his to lose.

“The state title runs through Johnny’s door,” Porter said. “He’s been dreaming of winning state since he was four years old sitting in the wrestling room and watching practice.

“If he brings his ‘A’ game to state, good luck to everyone else.”

The Porters knew this was going to be a special year for Johnny, but he didn’t get the outside recognition until the Flatwater Fracas in Grand Island on Dec. 21.

Johnny went up against second-ranked Billy Thompson of Grand Island with a crowd of people gathered around the mat to watch. Johnny controlled the match that he won 7-5, but the match wasn’t that close as Thompson stole two late points.

“I had a sense of pride at that match,” Todd said. “It’s one of the best tournaments of the year and all the stud wrestlers were watching, and most of them thought Johnny would lose. He showed he was for real.”

In Johnny’s final season at Bellevue East before continuing his wrestling career at Chadron State next year, the whole Porter clan is taking in his special season.

“The whole family has been keeping tabs on his season,” Todd said. “I have six brothers and sisters and they’ll probably all be at the state tournament cheering him on.

“He’s been a source of great pride and he deserves it all.”

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