Army Captain Finishes 5th in CISM Greco-Roman Wrestling
October 19, 2007
By Tim Hipps
HYDERABAD, India (Army News Service, Oct. 19, 2007) -- Army Capt. Philip Johnston's fifth-place finish in the 96-kilogram division Tuesday was the highlight of the U.S. Armed Forces Greco-Roman wrestling team's two-day tournament at the 4th CISM Military World Games.
Capt.Johnston, a former All-Air-Force wrestler who entered the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program in 2005, recently returned from the World Wrestling Championships in Azerbaijan, where he served as a training partner for Army Staff Sgt. Dremiel Byers, whose bronze-medal perfomance secured Team USA's inaugural Greco-Roman world team title.
Staff Sgt. Byers did not compete in the Military World Games because he could not secure a military passport in time for the trip to India.
In Hyderabad, Capt. Johnston said he felt like he was right back at the World Championships.
"There are people who win the World Championships and come here and lose," said Capt. Johnston, 30, a native of Anchorage, Alaska, who's stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "This was a huge gear-up for the Olympic Trials. It's been an incredible competition. There are only three or four wrestlers who aren't here who are going to be at the Olympics."
"This is pretty much the Olympic Games next year, with five more wrestlers, because there were 15 in my weight class here and there will be 20 at the Olympics. Everything's so tight, anybody can win it. Just a matter of who's on their game."
In his first match, Capt. Johnston defeated Slovakia's Meduna Roman 1-1, 0-4 and 1-1. He then lost 0-1, 1-1 to Gerigios Kaoutsioumpas of Greece. In the first period, Kaoutsioumpas won the toss and lifted Capt. Johnston before throwing him for two points. Kaoutsioumpas also won the toss in the second period, and prevailed when neither wrestler could turn the other for points.
Capt. Johnston remained in the hunt when Gerigios Kaoutsioumpas defeated Lithuania's Ezerskis Mindaugas in the next round. Wrestling his way back into medal contention, Capt. Johnston uncorked a high-amplitude throw of Republic of Korea's Dong Hun Shin in the second period of a 2-1, 5-0 victory to earn a shot at bronze.
"I just went for my best lift," Capt. Johnston said.
In one of two bronze-medal matches in the weight class, Capt. Johnston lost both coin tosses and both periods by scores of 2-0 to Ezerskis Mindaugas. In the first period, Lithuania's Mindaugas turned Capt. Johnston for the winning margin. In the second period, Mindaugas scored on a gut wrench to claim the bronze.
"He's a tough competitor," Capt. Johnston said of Ezerskis Mindaugas, who finished second in the World Championships last month. "It was a tough loss but I felt like I learned some stuff. I'm just happy for the opportunity to be here in Hyderabad, India, representing the Armed Forces, the U.S. Army and the United States."
Because there were two bronze-medal matches in each weight class, no fourth place was awarded, leaving Capt. Johnston with fifth. Former world champion Ozal Mehmet of Turkey won the gold medal with his victory over Greece's Koutsioumpas.
Despite finishing lower in the standings than he desired, Johnston said he cherished the Military World Games experience.
"The people of India are the friendliest that I've ever been around," he said. "I love the food. It's been neat to meet different people from 101 countries. It's been an incredible experience. With the Opening Ceremonies, this is the second-best thing to the Olympics."
Capt. Johnston said he was inspired to excel for his younger brother, Air Force Capt. Kirk Johnston, who recently deployed for the third time to Iraq.
"There are a lot of people pulling for me that are overseas," said the Army captain. "I have tons of friends over there, so I wanted to take this opportunity to wrestle well. I've beaten everybody in my weight class in the United States. I wrestle against them every day. I just need to put it together on the right day."
Capt. Johnston asked to close with a shout-out to his deployed buddies: "If this makes it into anything my brother and my friends overseas can read, I just wish them the best, hope they're safe, and I can't wait to see them back in the States."
(Tim Hipps writes for FMWRC Public Affairs)