Opponents continue to submit to Mark; Teenager is called up to GB squad.
A TEENAGE multi title-holding wrestler from Norris Green may soon be getting to grips with opponents on the international mat, after achieving selection for the Great Britain National Talent Squad.
Mark Johnson, 15, is the current holder of the English, British and prestigious Aspull International crowns in the 71kg weight class.
Mark, a Year 11 student at Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College, in Walton, finished 2013 undefeated - a feat he has been able to maintain so far this year.
This record recently included the Aspull victory in Wigan. Here he impressively beat an opponent in the final by a "superior technical point fall". Mark had lost to the same opponent 12 months ago at the same event.
The youngster's performance during this competition highlighted his work ethic and physical toughness, for he has had to deal with a nasty back injury that has troubled him over the last six weeks.
"I train twice weekly at Bolton Olympic Freestyle Club and do my strength and conditioning work at TMAS Health & Fitness four times a week," Mark explained to Junior XSPORT.
"I started my wrestling at a club in Sparrow Hall, but when that closed down, there didn't seem to be any wrestling clubs locally.
"To help out, Jesse Bradbury, my coach, invited me to train in Bolton. This means that my Mum (Mandy) has to drive me every time to training, which is hard, but it has been successful.
My granddad, Ray, takes me to all the competitions.
"I travelled to Northern Ireland to win the British title, in October, beating my opponent in the final by a pinfall.
"This victory helped me to win the Bolton Wrestler of the Year Award, a title of which I am very proud.
"Freestyle wrestling is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport and it is one of my long-term aims is to fight at the next Commonwealth Games in 2018. By that time I will be 19 or 20."
Mark's signature moves on the mat sound extremely painful. He favours the aptly named "double-trouble" - a combined head and arm hold.
He also specialises in the equallyeffective "blast-double", which involves a grab at his opponents' legs. "The key to being a top wrestler is staying in control at all times," Mark explained.
"You must keep cool and remain focused, putting any nerves you might feel to the back of your mind. This is why I train so hard.
"Wrestling takes up most of my time although I do have an Everton season ticket and manage to see every home game.
"My wrestling commitments prevent me going to any away matches, though.
"My favourite Everton player is Kevin Mirallas and I am sure he can help us to win a place in the Champions League.
"I also enjoy rap music and play the vinyl decks - my favourite artist is Tech N9ne. I'm also into basketball and enjoy playing at our local youth club.
"In the future, I am hoping to make a career out of wrestling. The aim is to go to University in the USA on a wrestling scholarship for four to five years and eventually to go into coaching.
"Getting to the top is a very expensive business. I am very grateful to a former Norris Green resident, Paula Tennant, and Financial Solutions for the help they have already given to me.
"However, I am continually on the look-out for sponsors to help with my training expenses. If anyone would like to help, please get in touch via email email@example.com" Coach Bradbury was pleased to confirm that Mark is a real talent and he is looking forward to watching his young prodigy perform at the end of this month.
He said: "I am extremely pleased with Mark's development in the sport. He has only been involved in wrestling a short span of time, only four years, and he is holding his own with all the elite junior wrestlers in the UK.
"These days he is training and scoring against senior men wrestlers at national level.
"He now has a period of time to rest and recover from injury before the competitive wrestling season starts this month."
CONCENTRATION: Teenage wrestling star Mark Johnson pictured in training with his coach, Jesse Bradbury, at the TMAS Health & Fitness Gym in Walton; and, inset, with his gold medal won at the British Junior Championships Photos: ANDREW TEEBAY/ at050214wrestler-
Photos: ANDREW TEEBAY/ at050214wrestler-3/2