As an author, Warren-native Dennis Johnson has been around, and he isn't new to success.
A former county coach, Johnson recently published his third book, "Wrestling Drills for the Mat and the Mind," as a follow-up to his 1991 publication, "The Wrestling Drill Book."
"I had written one in the early 90's," explained Johnson, "that was pretty successful - over 15,000 to 20,000 copies were sold."
Cover photo courtesy of Momentum Media
Originally published in 1991, Warren-native Dr. Dennis Johnson has authored a second edition book entitled “Wrestling Drills for the Mat and the Mind,” which has many local connections, including three local wrestlers (pictured below) who demonstrated drills.
For Johnson, it's been a long road in the sport, and the journey provides the ideal background for the author of a wrestling handbook.
Currently the men's and women's cross country coach at Wingate University in North Carolina, Johnson also serves as Associate Professor in the University School of Sports Sciences. Along the way he's been a Division I wrestler at Marshall University, an Eisenhower High School and Sheffield High School wrestling coach, as well as being a co-author of "The Coaches' Guide to Nutrition and Weight Control."
He's confident that the added academic experience he has under his belt is the difference-maker between his previous books, and "Wrestling Drills for the Mat and the Mind," which has already been endorsed by big names in wrestling such as Bruce Baumgartner, Dan Gable, and Penn State University.
"This book has taken research from the sports sciences," said Johnson, "and I think that is what really helps. Everything in here has been researched, so it can teach how to drill and how to make drills fun, but the big thing is the sports science that went into it, and I think being in the academic community has helped me focus on that."
"This is a follow up (to The Wrestling Drill Book), and I've become really involved in the psychology," said Johnson.
In fact, his newest book contains two chapters that are strictly dedicated to mental drills that, "coaches typically don't have time to spend on or even the knowledge to facilitate that mental training."
Although, at first glance, his current position coaching cross country running might seem like a far cry from the physicality of wrestling, Johnson feels like there is a parallel between the two sports.
"It's amazing how similar the athletes in those two sports are," he said. "They both have to be mentally tough."
The difference, as Johnson points out, is that cross country runners don't have an opponent. "They have to compete against themselves," he said.
Though he no longer lives in Warren County, Johnson is a Warren native through and through, and his latest book is a clear indication of where his roots remain.
"We have a lot of local connections in the book," explained Johnson.
From research to the publishing process, Johnson uses several Warren ties.
"I live here in the summer and I come back at Christmas and go to the holiday tournaments, this is my home." said Johnson.
He includes the opinions of Warren-natives in his drills, which, combined with wrestling greats such as Ken Chertow and Rob Koll, has provided a huge pool of knowledge for him to dip into.
"In the foreward I gave credit to Kris Black, Glenn Baldensperger, Red Childress, Dean Johnson, Steve Siliano and Drew Wilcox. I went and saw all of these guys, they're local guys who helped give me drills and/or helped keep me up-to-date on wrestling," said Johnson.
"Coming back here to the county every year is where I watch wrestling progress," he said, and that's a big part of why he used Warren wrestlers as models for the drills in "Wrestling Drills for the Mat and the Mind."
"My nephew (Colter Johnson) wrestled for Warren, so did Michael Jaskolka and Tyler Stufflebeam, and these are guys that are all about the same size, so the drills were appropriate," said Johnson. "Obviously, Colter is family, and it's kind of a family thing."
A family thing it certainly is, and when it came time to publish the book, family played a big role again.
"My sister, Diedra Johnson (Harkenrider), who graduated in '79 and went to states in track, she's an editor for this publishing company, and she had a big hand in that," said Johnson.
Harkenrider and Haley Conn, a junior cheerleader at Warren Area High School, took the drill photos for the book.
With the book finished, Johnson hopes more than anything that it can help Warren County wrestlers in some way. While his journey has found him farther south, Johnson still remembers, "this is home."