Dalton’s talent pushes him to the top | NevadaAppeal.com

Dalton’s talent pushes him to the top

Steve Puterski

Fallon's Dalton Johnson had a superb senior year in football, wrestling and baseball. For his efforts, Johnson is the LVN's 2013 Boys Athlete of the Year.
Steve Puterski / sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com | LVN

Strength, agility and a hard-nosed attitude lifted Dalton Johnson to become one of the Northern Division I-A’s best all-around athletes.

The 2013 Churchill County High School graduate earned all-state honors as a linebacker, was runner-up in the 195-pound class at the DI-A state wrestling tournament and an all-league baseball selection.

As a result, Johnson has been named the LVN’s 2013 Prep Male Athlete of the Year.

Johnson’s on-field demeanor, however, is filled with intensity. The muscular 17-year-old thrived in trenches as he consistently blew through blockers and punished opposing ball carriers. He averaged 7.9 tackles per game, had four games with 10 tackles, caused one fumble and tallied 16 tackles for loss.

To cap his high school career, Johnson set a Sertoma Classic record with a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown.

“My whole senior year was definitely a journey,” he said.

On the mat, Johnson overwhelmed his opponents with his strength, which led to his second-place finish at state. In addition, the Wave’s best grappler also placed in the top six at the Reno Tournament of Champions and was second at the Sierra Nevada Classic. His resume also includes the Northern DI-A regional title.

On the diamond, Johnson was a steady presence at third base and in the batter’s box. He helped lead the Wave to their third consecutive regional tournament.

The journey

Johnson’s senior season was in doubt after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in a wrestling match as a junior. After the surgery, he spent countless hours rehabilitating the knee in hopes he could get back on the football field.

One of the toughest aspects of recovering from a major injury is the mental fortitude required to overcome the trauma. Johnson, though, worked hard day-by-day to regain the strength, mobility and flexibility.

Throughout the football season, Johnson’s knee grew stronger, but in the back of his mind there were still reservations.

“It was one of those things where I didn’t want to rush back,” he said.

Once the season concluded with a blowout loss to Lowry in the first round of the DI-A playoffs, Johnson was on the fence about returning to the mat.

He grinded through practice and slowly came around to the conclusion he wanted to wrestle. Johnson slammed his way through his northern counterparts and wound up in the state final.

“I went to practice for a couple weeks and it wasn’t too bad,” he added. “It was one of those things where I wanted to do this. As I progressed, it (the knee) got better and I started trusting it.”

He dropped a close match, one he could have won. Nevertheless, Johnson was proud of his comeback, especially since it was on the mat 13 months prior where his knee was ripped.

“You can’t ask for much more than that,” he said.

Johnson’s baseball career, though, was interrupted by a two-year hiatus. He decided not play his sophomore year and injured in his junior season, Johnson committed to Lester de Braga’s club for one more run at a state title.

He worked for a brief period as one of the team’s catchers, but the position is an unforgiving one, especially with a reconstructed ACL. Instead, Johnson moved to third base and was one of the best hitters for the club.

Baseball, though, is a marathon filled with endless hours of practice. It took Johnson awhile to get into the flow after being separated from the game for two years.

“It was definitely fun,” he said. “Baseball was just my fun sport.”

The next level

Johnson is one of many current Greenwave graduates headed to play in college. Like his career at CCHS, his recruiting odyssey has taken numerous turns.

Johnson was in talks to try out and hopefully secure a preferred walk-on status at the University of Idaho, a Division I school in the Western Athletic Conference. He met with the coaching staff, but the Fallon grad said he received a phone call to attend tryouts.

Despite the setback, Johnson’s attempts to play college ball have shifted to the University of La Verne, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. The DIII school stayed in contact and Johnson is more than happy to suit up for the Leopards.

“We set up a meeting and they (the coaches) showed me around the school,” he said. “It was cool.”

Academically, Johnson’s focus will either be in pharmaceuticals or exercise science.

“It was one of those things I was always interested in, plus they make good money,” he said of the pharmaceutical route. “In exercise science, they stay in sports.”