Whitefish Bay freshman 152-pound state wrestling qualifier Dajun Johnson (29-7) has something of a "been-threre-done-that" kind of attitude.
He's the first frosh from Bay to qualify for state wrestling, and he's also the heaviest freshman state qualifier in the 14-class, 200-plus-man field (the next biggest is at 132).
But as he'll tell you, he's been a high-level club wrestler almost since he began in the sixth grade, and he's been to high-level summer tournaments like Fargo and Northern Plains, so advancing to the Kohl Center in Madison for the WIAA individual tournament will not be such a big deal.
That is until coach Dale Loebel gets him there.
"He's been to these big tournaments, but sometimes state can do things to a guy," Loebel said. "You have to control your emotions, but I still think the moment isn't too big for him because there's absolutely no pressure on him at all. He'll just go out there and wrestle."
He'll take part in his first-round bout at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Kohl Center when the individual tournament gets underway. He will face Pulaski senior Jake Gille (35-3). Second-round matches are later that day with semifinals on Friday, Feb. 24, and finals on Saturday, Feb. 25.
"The nice thing for us is that that kind (Gille) hasn't seen us, and we haven't seen him," Loebel said, "so we have nothing to lose."
And everything to gain.
"The biggest thing is not to be scared," Johnson said. "I have all these national tournaments that I've been to, and I don't think that this (state) will be bigger than any of them."
Johnson's qualification puts a nice coda on what has been a challenging season for Loebel and his staff, which dealt with just single digits in terms of numbers this season. Johnson was one of five Bay wrestlers at the Oconomowoc sectional on Feb. 18, where he earned his state slot with a runner-up finish.
Johnson pinned a Pewaukee opponent in the quarterfinals (4:23) and then overpowered a Hamilton opponent with an 11-3 major decision. In the final, he lost to Arrowhead's powerful Kelvin Yde on a pin in 3:17.
Then he had to wait out the results of the wild third-place match between Klemstein and an Oconomowoc wrestler. Though Klemstein was battling injuries and knew he couldn't get to state because Johnson had lost, he pulled out an amazing overtime decision that had the entire crowd in the Oconomowoc field house fixated.
"We kept waiting for the Hamilton kid to fold because he knew he couldn't go to state, but he just kept going," Loebel said. "It was a real credit to him."
Loebel said it reminded him of a situation a few years ago when Blue Duke Joey Davey got help getting to state from a Menomonee Falls wrestler, who knew he wouldn't get a wrestleback but still won his third place bout.
"That's pretty awesome," Loebel said.
If the Oconomowoc wrestler had won, Johnson would have had to defend his second-place state berth in a wrestleback.
"It was crazy," Johnson said. "It was like, 'Do I have to wrestle or do I not?'"
The Blue Dukes had one other good opportunity at advancing someone to state. Senior Jonah Nelson at 138 (26-14), pinned his Hamilton opponent in his quarterfinal (1:33), fell to eventual runner-up Noah Dakouras of Falls, 15-4, but then pinned a Pewaukee opponent (2:49) for third place.
Because Dakouras lost in the final, Nelson did not get a wrestleback for second.
"Jonah is a pretty even-keeled kid; he doesn't get too upset about things," Loebel said. "He just does what he does, and he gave himself a chance."
Other Blue Duke wrestlers at sectionals included Caleb Heidmann at 120 (5-14), Nolan Fergus at 132 (14-19) and Max Hummer at 160 (20-17). All lost first-round bouts.
Loebel is happy that with Johnson's advancement, Bay has qualified wrestlers to state in six of the last seven years.
"Some of the kids were asking me earlier in the season, 'What if we don't get anyone to state?'" Loebel said. "I just told told them, 'That's what we do. We find a way to get someone there.'"