Wrestling: Providence’s Klimara, Lockport’s Johnson, going for second goldBrad Johnson, of Lockport, is aiming for a second state wrestling title. | File photo
Updated: April 2, 2012 7:30PM
Eddie Klimara and Brad Johnson both are trying to become two-time titlists at this week’s the state wrestling tournament.
For Providence’s Klimara, it’s his third try at an elusive second state championship. For both he and Lockport’s Johnson, it’s their last try.
The seniors both will take to the mat in Class 3A, Johnson trying to follow up on the championship that he won at 189 pounds a year ago to become the first Porter to capture a second state title, Klimara hoping to bounce back from two straight one-point defeats in title matches to duplicate the championship that he won at 103 in 2009.
Top-four finishers in last weekend’s sectionals qualified for this year’s three-day event, which starts Thursday at the Assembly Hall in Champaign.
Wrestlers in both Classes 1A and 2A finally join those in Class 3A with a 16-man bracket, which allows all three classes to now have six medal winners.
Lemont, which is in 2A, leads all area programs with a school-record 10 qualifiers, four more than its previous-best total at state.
Klimara finished second at 119 in 2010 and was also the runner-up at 125 a year ago, both times losing heartbreakers to Stevenson’s Danny Sabatello.
Klimara is 39-1 this season and the favorite at 126 pounds. Klimara hopes to join Edwin Cooper and Mark Ruettiger as the only Celtics to reach four title matches.
His season has featured plenty of highlights, including being named as TheMat.com’s Athlete of the Week after winning his fourth straight Dvorak championship.
“This is my last week of my senior year and I’m really excited about it,” Klimara said. “I have four matches left in my high school career, so I have to step up and lay it all on the line.”
Celtics coach Keith Healy, who has seen 15 of his wrestlers collect 19 state titles in 19 years, believes Klimara is focused for his last title run.
“We talk about last year’s finals quite a bit and that keeps Eddie motivated,” Healy said. “He beat two good kids the last day of the sectional and is wrestling with a lot of confidence.”
Johnson also is on a roll as he prepares for his final state appearance. He’s won all 33 of his matches this season and is the man to beat at 195 pounds.
The Porters senior, who will wrestle at the University of Oklahoma, also took fourth at 189 in 2010. He has 52 straight victories over the past two seasons.
“Rankings don’t really matter since I know who the top kids are and what I have to do,” Johnson said. “It comes down to performing my best and just going out and trying to dominate people.
“I’ve been trying to win titles all of my life and I got one last year and don’t want to let it slip away this year. I’m doing whatever it takes and working harder than I did last year.”
After getting hurt following a title effort at the Cheesehead Invitational, Johnson didn’t compete for a while in order to get healthy for the state series.
“Brad came back strong after missing a few weeks and has really wrestled well the last two weeks by increasing his margins of victory over some tough kids,” Lockport coach Josh Oster said.