WADSWORTH — From a state semifinal appearance to getting a chance to coach his alma mater, Wadsworth boys soccer coach John Johnson has made many memories during a career that has spanned more than 20 years.
Johnson added another highlight last week when he was informed he will be inducted into the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
“Obviously, I’m humbled,” the 44-year-old said. “I was caught off-guard when I got the phone call, and when they told me, I really didn’t know what to say and I still don’t. It’s quite an honor.”
Johnson just wrapped up his 17th season leading the same program he played in from 1981-84. Johnson, who had coaching stints at Statesville (N.C.) and Revere prior to taking over Wadsworth, also was the president of the OSSCA until last fall, when health problems forced him to step down from the post.
Now he will be entering the same hall of fame as his mentor, former Grizzlies coach Tom Cranston, in a ceremony to be held in Columbus on Jan. 6.
“I got involved with the association because I was surrounded by people like Tom that told me that I had to give back,” Johnson said. “I started working at the local level and worked my way up.”
In Johnson’s tenure as the OSSCA leader, the organization grew to be one of the biggest in the country. It also established a postseason banquet to honor All-Ohio selections and was a driving force in moving the state championship games in each division to Columbus Crew Stadium.
Johnson started his coaching career in 1988 after a successful playing career at the University of Akron.
After serving as the Grizzlies junior varsity girls coach, he landed his first head coaching job in 1989 at Statesville (N.C.). Two years later, he relocated back to Northeast Ohio to lead Revere.
Johnson guided the Minutemen to the D-II state semifinals in 1995 — a game that ironically was played at Wadsworth’s Art Wright Memorial Stadium — before taking over his alma mater the next season.
“I’ve been blessed at three different schools to coach such great kids and players,” he said. “It made the job so easy.”
Since then, Johnson has led the Grizzlies to a pair of Suburban League titles (1997, 2001) and been named Gazette Coach of the Year four times.
He currently teaches economics and sociology at Wadsworth High.
Along with coaching a slew of All-Ohio selections, many of his former players have had successful college playing careers. Others have continued into the coaching ranks — most notably Eric Golz, who wrapped his first year as the associate head women’s soccer coach at the University of Maryland.
“I talk to him all the time, and I want him to introduce me (at the banquet),” Johnson said. “I’ve coached a lot of great and talented players, and I run into a lot of them around town or at games. It’s rewarding to sit and talk with them. It’s neat. It really is.”
While Johnson has had many gratifying experiences over his career, nothing tops being able to coach his son Ian, a former All-Gazette selection who currently is the starting defensive midfielder for Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
“That was the highlight of my career,” he said. “To cap it all off his senior year, my daughter (Hannah) kept the book for us. So she was on the bench with me and he was on the field. It’s been an honor to coach, especially at Wadsworth, but it was cool to watch (Ian) get his All-Ohio award as a senior. It was a proud moment as coach and as a dad.
“It’s been an honor to coach, and now to be put in the same Hall of Fame that Tom is in (is great),” Johnson continued. “He was like a second father to me, and if I can be that guy to others that need it, that’s just a neat thing.”
Contact Dan Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.