Wrestler's Faith Drives Academic Pursuits

Joe Johnson
Honors College student Joe Johnson was recognized with the Scholar-Athlete Award - given to athletes with the highest grade-point average on their team. Beyond school and sports, Johnson is an active member of the MSU athletic ministry.

“Lord, we take this moment to thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this great Spartan community.”

This is how Joe Johnson, a fifth-year wrestler from South Lyon, Michigan, began his invocation at this year’s Spartan Academic Excellence Gala, where he was also recognized with the ScholarAthlete Award – given to athletes with the highest grade-point average on their team.

“It is a lot of work to keep a 4.0 GPA while being an athlete,” Johnson said. “So, it meant a lot to me to be recognized with such a high honor in front of my peers and the Michigan State community.”

After beginning to wrestle at the age of four, Johnson decided in his sophomore year of high school that he wanted to wrestle in the Big Ten. Originally committed to wrestle for another school, Michigan State University Coach Tom Minkel convinced Johnson to take a tour, where he fell in love with the campus, the team, and the school.

Last season was challenging for Johnson after he suffered two concussions along with other injuries, but his focus is unwavering.

“This year is actually our head coach’s last year. (So), it’s going to be an emotional year for a lot of people. It’s going to be a fun season to take (on) a lot of leadership,” Johnson said.

Outside of being a leader on the wrestling team, Johnson has found academic motivation in being a member of the Honors College, and has benefited from the “attention I get as far as picking my classes,” as it was easier for him to schedule classes during the busy wrestling season.

Johnson is majoring in finance and held an internship with Plante Moran, helping with the accounting firm’s wealth management division.

Beyond school and sports, Johnson is an active member of the MSU athletic ministry. He said faith can help student athletes who find themselves in a bad environment – something to which he can relate.

Exposure to the ministry has Johnson thinking of different career paths after he graduates, although he’s not sure in which direction he’ll go. For now, he is looking forward to his last season wrestling.

This article was originally published in HConnections 2015.