Kendell “Superman” Johnson: Never In Doubt

As the timer struck zero, Geary senior Kendell Johnson raised both fists up to his chest, pulling them backward as if he were ripping open his singlet.

The well-known Superman imitation, which was a nickname given to him in the 8th grade by a former coach.

A suitable nickname, especially this year as Johnson proved to be an unstoppable force—no different than Clark Kent—on his way to a State Championship Title at the 160-pound weight class.

“It feels good,” Johnson said. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. I think everybody else is more excited than I am. It just doesn’t feel real.”

Johnson came into his finals match against Marlow’s Tyler Lavey, having already faced him twice in the past three weeks. Their first meeting came in the championship match at the Clinton Tournament, which Johnson won in a major decision, 10-2. Two weeks later, Johnson pinned Lavey in the finals at the Regional Tournament in Kingfisher, meaning Lavey had one more week to adjust and make a final game plan for a potential third matchup at the State Tournament.

“[Lavey] got to know my moves and what I was trying to do,” Johnson said. “When I wrestled him at Clinton he was more explosive. Then at Regionals he was sitting back more and just waiting for me to mess up or make a move.”

A tactic that can be frustrating but one that is necessary for the underdog to find a way to compete.

But over the years, Johnson learned to be more patient and stick to what he knows best. Wrestling his way.

“It’s something where I had to look myself in the mirror and say man up to go get what you’ve worked for,” Johnson said. “I just told myself not to be nervous, so I went out there confident in myself. I just wrestled the way Kendell Johnson wrestles and knew it was going to be the outcome I wanted.”

In the final meeting at the State Tournament, Lavey took an early 2-0 lead after a takedown in the first period. Both wrestlers found themselves tied at five a piece in the third period, before Johnson brought Lavey to the ground and secured position to get the takedown and a two-point lead. Lavey would escape with nine seconds left in the match, which would prove to be too little too late as Johnson took the championship in a 7-6 decision.

Ending what was not only an impressive senior year but a memorable four-year tenure in Geary. Johnson finished his senior season with a career-best 36-4 record and a career record of 133-32. Also, finishing as a four-time state placer.

A Man of Steel Was Born

Johnson’s wrestling career started at five years old, but his strive for greatness didn’t start until 7th grade after he won Junior High State.

It was then that he wanted to be a High School State Champion, with a chance at being Geary’s first four-timer.

But it was the first three years that got him here to where he is today.

As a freshman, Johnson dropped down a couple of weights a few weeks before the State Tournament where he ended up finishing 3rd overall. After his match he looked on as then sophomore teammate Ross Shawnee won the finals at 145-pound weight class against a kid who Johnson had defeated earlier that season.

“I stuck him earlier that season, and if I would’ve stayed at 145 pounds then I would’ve won it,” Johnson said. “Then my sophomore year I thought that there was nobody who could touch me.”

Johnson proved that to be true, making it to his first finals appearance at State before facing Blackwell’s Justice Circle, who Johnson had pinned the week before at Regionals. However, the then senior, Circle, defeated Johnson in the finals.

“So, in my head I was already thinking I had this,” Johnson said. “I just choked for the first time being in the finals at the Big House. I had nerves even though I had already beat the kid. I was thinking ‘dang, there’s a lot of people here and I’m expected to win’. It all just got to me.”

Johnson would come up just short again his junior season after a tough 4-3 decision loss to Heritage Hall’s Rodrick Mosley. The nerves were still there, but Johnson was the one making adjustments when he felt later on he just needed to keep it simple.

“What really got me my sophomore and junior year is that both times I changed the way I wrestled,” Johnson said. “If I just wrestled the way I wrestle then I might’ve had a better outcome.”

So, at this year’s State Tournament Johnson had a different mentality going in to the finals.

“I’ve been here four times with this being my third-straight year in the finals,” Johnson said. “It just came down to I’ve been here before and there’s nothing to be worried about. I have more experience than he does, so really I’m the bigger dog.”

Johnson showed the notion to everybody who sees the superhero in how he competes. And he got to end his career with the Superman celebration.

Although there wasn’t a letter “S” on his chest to show for it, the actual iconic symbol to the comic book and action movie fans alike doesn’t merely stand for Superman. But, it is in fact a symbol meaning “hope”.

While he didn’t become the four-time state champion he set out to be, he brought hope to the people who have followed him throughout his career.

Hope for the younger generation of Geary, who he has been active with for the past four years within the Geary PeeWee Wrestling Program.

Hope for the next Superman of Geary Bison Wrestling.

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