“Just a Big Family”

Wrestlers from across the country turn out for the annual Dean Johnson Memorial Wrestling Tournament: The Barnyard Brawl

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Action on the mat just beyond a memorial table celebrating the life and career of Dean Johnson during the 2022 Dean Johnson Memorial Barnyard Brawl at the Warren County Fairgrounds on Saturday, July 23, 2022. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

PITTSFIELD, Pa. – More than 130 wrestlers from across the country battled their way through the heat, humidity, and each other at the Warren County Fairgrounds Saturday during the 2022 Dean Johnson Memorial Wrestling Tournament: The Barnyard Brawl.

While the Warren Dragon Wrestling Club sponsored the event honoring the Dragons’ late coach, Johnson had ties to nearly every county wrestling program and all came out to participate in the event.

“That’s what’s important, that we are a tight-knit community,” Warren wrestling coach Ted Carrington said. “And to see all these schools coming together, that’s really what it’s about. It’s not about Warren, it’s not about Sheffield, Eisenhower. It’s about everyone coming here together, supporting Dean, remembering what he was about, and having some fun.”

The 2022 Dean Johnson Memorial Wrestling Tournament: The Barnyard Brawl had wrestlers competing on three different mats inside the KeyBank Pavilion at the Warren County Fairgrounds on Saturday, July 23, 2022. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

“All the coaches liked him,” Dean’s brother Dr. Dennis Johnson added. “He’d been a coach at Sheffield and Warren, so he’s got that connection and I coached Eisenhower so we’ve got just a big family thing.”

This year’s tournament was held inside the KeyBank Pavilion, a change of venue from the 2021 event held at Betts Park, that prevented the “touch and go” weather issues from the previous year and tied into another of Dean’s passions.

“A lot of people heard how much the fair meant to Dean,” Carrington said. “And it brought people who might not have come out if it was down at the river. It was so touch and go last year, and it worked out for us, but just having it somewhere that’s open air but enclosed, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Photo gallery. All photos by Brian Hagberg

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The venue had another tie to Dean’s legacy.

“In the early 80s as part of the fair on Sunday we would have an old-timers takedown tournament,” Dennis Johnson said. “And we put the mats on the side and Dean and I both wrestled.”

And of course, the Dairy Princess was on-hand to ensure each wrestler had plenty of Dean’s favorite recovery drink.

“The Dairy Princess has free chocolate milk over there,” Dennis Johnson said. “Low-fat chocolate milk is a really good recovery drink for wrestlers.”

Warren’s Tanner Stuart and Marion Center’s Lewis Sears share an embrace following their match in the 2022 Dean Johnson Memorial Wrestling Tournament: The Barnyard Brawl at the Warren County Fairgrounds on Saturday, July 23, 2022. Stuart won his weight class in the 12U division. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

The tournament drew wrestlers from across the county, as well as regionally in Corry, Union City, Cambridge Springs, Cathedral Prep, Falconer, Saegertown, and Jamestown (NY), and nationally from states like Georgia and Ohio.

The round-robin-style tournament had two sessions throughout the day. The morning session featured 8U, 10U, and 12U competitors, while the afternoon had Junior High and Senior High competitions.

Full tournament results can be found here.

Carrington said the competition will only serve to make the local wrestlers better. Or as Dean was often fond of saying, “Iron sharpens iron.”

“We live in a rural area. We don’t have the pool that some of these other places do so, to be honest when these other kids come up most of the time, we get thumped on pretty good,” Carrington said. “And it just shows our kids hey, we really need to pick it up. Wrestling isn’t a sport that you’re going to excel that just from November till March, right? If you want to be a good wrestler, you have to put the time in now. Just say, ‘Geez, that kid from Georgia really smoked me,’ that’s because they put the work in, and if we want to compete that’s what we have to do. Each one of these coaches from our area schools is all on board. We all have the same philosophy. This has to be a year-round thing if we want to compete.”

It wasn’t just the youth competing either. Twenty wrestlers registered to compete in a Men’s Open division including Dean’s son Colter Johnson, Eisenhower alums Joey Bauer and Nate Holt, Sheffield’s Ricky Prosen and Cooper Traister, Youngsville’s Collin Clough, and Warren’s Nick DeSimone and DJ Fehlman, to name a few.

“It shows the community, you know, how much everyone comes together,” Carrington said.

And that community extended beyond the mat as well.

“If it honestly weren’t for the Warren High School, junior high cheerleaders, we wouldn’t have hardly anybody here,” Carrington said. “They really pulled through to help us out. We’re trying to bring back what Dean always wanted, a real tight-knit community and that’s what we’re about. We’re trying to tell these kids, ‘Hey, even though you’re not here wrestling, come out and help support the cause.’ We just really want to shout out to Melissa Feaster and Wendy Carrington for getting our (high school) girls down here, and Diane Johnson for the junior high girls.”

Dennis Johnson hopes the combination of Dean’s legacy, with new efforts to involve youth at the Kinzua Wrestling Club, will help achieve one of Dean’s goals, to grow the sport.

“Everybody really liked him, he was one of those guys that just did things for everybody,” Dennis said. “(The KWC) is going to help grow (the sport), I think. It’s just good for the community.”