By DEREK WILEY Leavenworth Times
PARK CITY – About a year ago, Avari Johnson began writing in her journal daily, “I will be a state champion.”
Young Leavenworth will need a new mantra.
Johnson defeated Spring Hill sophomore Campbell Mermis 6-1 on Thursday to win the 145-pound title at the Class 6-5A State Championship Tournament.
“It means everything,” Johnson said. “All the moments in training where I thought I was dying, it was worth it.”
Johnson, who entered the state tournament 35-1, was also able to avenge her only loss of the season.
“That loss drove me all season,” said Johnson, who was pinned by Dodge City senior Ashley Arroyo in the finals of the Ladycat Classic in December.
“Every time I struggled to train, I thought back to that loss and why I was doing everything I was doing.”
The rematch came in the state semifinals, where Johnson defeated Arroyo 4-2 on a takedown in overtime.
“I was in shock,” Johnson said. “I was literally incredulous. I feel like that was my real final match in a way.
Johnson said her match against Arroyo, who entered the tournament undefeated and ranked No. 1, has been conditioned by conditioning.
“She was definitely gassed in the third period and overtime finished,” Johnson said of Arroyo. “I could have gone longer. I was conditioned. After I told my coaches it was worth it.
Johnson’s win in the Finals was his third over Mermis this season.
Using a move that had earned her backs in both of the previous two matchups, Johnson got a takedown and three near-fall points late in the second period to give her a 5-1 lead.
“I was looking for him during the game,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t as good as my other tournaments. I definitely toned it down a bit. I think everything went well.”
Leavenworth senior Hannah Jackson completed her dominant season with the 235 lbs state championship.
After pinning her first two opponents and then winning by big decision 13-0 in the semifinals, Jackson defeated Olathe North junior Hailey Conley 1-0 in the final.
“My coaches just wanted me to stay heavy and just move my feet and keep it low,” said Jackson, who hung over Conley for the entire third period after gaining a breakaway point in the second. “I just tried to stay smart and fight my fights.”
The win was Jackson’s fifth over Conley this season.
Jackson finished her career as a two-time state champion, four-time finalist and with a 121-10 record, including 41-0 this season.
“It puts me up there with some of the big ones and shows it’s really not a fluke if I get another one,” said Jackson, who won the 143-pound title last season.
Young Jacqueline Goodman of Leavenworth battled a back injury to place sixth at 170 pounds.
After losing 9-6 to Olathe Northwest’s Val Galligan in the quarterfinals, Goodman won two games, including one by a snap win in overtime, before being pinned by Dodge City’s Jolette Almaraz in the consolation semifinals.
The Pioneers recorded 66.5 points to finish fifth in the team standings.
Tonganoxie had two state cashes at the Class 4-1A state tournament in Salina.
After suffering just her second defeat of the season in the championship semi-finals, losing to Wellington’s Aubrey Hunt by fall, Tonganoxie senior Holly Colvert pinned Rose Hill’s Payton Sholander within 58 seconds in the consolation semi-finals.
Colvert’s next match was even shorter as she pinned Burlington’s Johanna Carrasco in 31 seconds to place third at 190 pounds.
Tonganoxie’s sophomore medalist Grace Stean earned her first state medal, placing fifth on 170. She finished the tournament 3-2 with three pins.