Seth Johnson and Drew Webster are champions.
Champions over 12 years in the making.
The North Montgomery wrestling duo have been in the sport a long time, and each and every moment over the past 12 years have helped them get to where they are today.
This past season they each cemented their place in the Charger history books, Johnson the third North wrestler to place at the state finals twice, and Webster the fourth underclassmen to take home a medallion.
Webster, a junior, placed fifth at 220 pounds, and Johnson, a senior, was eighth at 132. They were both Montgomery County, Sagamore Conference, sectional and regional champions — and those accolades have earned them the 2019 Journal Review Wrestlers of the Year.
Johnson wasn’t quite sure why he was running around North Montgomery’s wrestling room at the age of six, but his Dad, Rick, knew he would burn off some energy and that seemed to be the only thing that mattered.
“I don’t remember too much about it,” Johnson said. “I remember little glimpses as a little kid. I’ve heard stories that I’d be up here trying to wrestle the bigger guys even though I didn’t know much.”
His Normonco wrestling club coach, Jeff McMurry, knew exactly why he was there. He could see it after one practice.
“When you’ve been in wrestling as long as I have, and you’ve coached a bunch of kids you could tell the kids that have a natural ability,” McMurry said. “I could see that in Seth after one practice. I remember asking him where his Dad was and we found him, and I asked him if he had ever wrestled before and he said no, and I said ‘you might want to think about sticking with it,’ and he did.”
And so the journey began.
Johnson started taking the sport serious at a young age, entering in tournaments all over the state and even country. And who was right there with him from the very start?
“We just have fun together, and have known each other since day one,” Webster said. “I remember coming up here when I was four years old and Seth was up here and we would always have fun at practice, and it’s just another thing that helps me stay motivated.”
Webster had his older brothers Ty and Tanner, but him and Johnson quickly became friends, and travel buddies as they became two of the top youth area wrestlers in the area.
“It was nice to have them (Websters) there because we are really good family friends,” Johnson said. “And it helps to know that there are other people out there in our program putting in the work and trying to get better in the offseason.”
The Turning Point
Johnson and Webster have always been talented. But to get to the level they were this season, it took time and a lot of hard work.
Enter Maurice Swain.
Taking over the North Montgomery wrestling program in 2010, Swain helped build a winning culture, and once Johnson and Webster got to high school the expectation of being great was already set in place.
“I just knew that Swain was a really good coach, and he had built this program up and we just added to it,” Johnson said. “And it just made us better because we had good wrestlers around us to drill with and wrestle. It’s fun to win sectional and conference and all those big meets, and it just pushes you to work harder.”
Johnson went from a semi-state qualifier as a freshman, to fourth in the state at 106 as a sophomore, and Swain watched the transformation happen as Johnson’s confidence grew.
“Seth finally hit a growth spurt between his freshman and sophomore year. As a freshman, Seth was at a major physical disadvantage but by his sophomore year, Seth was able to compete physically with anyone in the state,” Swain said. “Over the summer between Seth’s freshman and sophomore year, Seth won the ISWA Folkstyle State Championship, and I think that was a major turning point in his career.”
After his sophomore year, Webster was disappointed with his failure to advance to the state finals, and he was set on doing whatever it took to get there this year.
“I told Swain that I needed help and asked him if we could come up here in his free time, because I needed help on my offense,” Webster said.
Swain saw the changes coming.
“The combination of maturity, skill, and determination has put Drew in the position to be the states best,” he said.
In the offseason last spring and summer, Webster won the ISWA Cadet Triple Crown, winning state titles in Folkstyle, Freestyle, and Greco Roman. He also traveled to Washington State to compete with Team Indiana against some of the best wrestlers in the country.
Both wrestlers had success early in their careers, but this past season was all about finishing what they started.
After placing as a sophomore, and failing to qualify as a junior, first-year coach Bryce McCoy watched Johnson enter the season motivated to return to the podium.
“I think that coming up short last year of qualifying for state when he went his sophomore year and placed was his main motivating factor,” McCoy said. “It pushed him to go harder throughout the year to get back to where he was.”
Webster started the season undefeated, before falling to Hamilton Southeastern’s Andrew Irick at the Holiday Duals. A switch went on that very next week at practice, allowing him to win every match until the quarterfinals at the state finals, including a redemption win over Irick in the regional final.
“Drew really focused in during practice after his first loss of the season worked harder overall every day,” McCoy said.
Johnson will go down as one of the best wrestlers in the history of North Montgomery’s program. He finished his career with 152 wins, second in school history behind Tanner Webster (2017). Webster will pass the century mark for wins early in his senior season, and will chase the program’s first state title, hoping to add to the legacy of Charger wrestling.
Each year North Montgomery has added to its’ recent domination, and McMurry saw it all forming nearly two decades ago, with both Johnson and Webster being at the center of it for the last 12 years.
“The main part has got to be starting the club,” he said. “Whatever year we started that (2002), if you look back from that point on that boosted the program as a whole, and that started when coach Minch was there, and we built the program on starting as young as possible and getting kids involved so they would learn the basics. And than we built that and coach Swain came in and brought a different style of coaching and got all the kids had in them, and even got a lot out of kids that didn’t think they could do much. He got a lot of potential out of each kid.”
Success breeds success, and Johnson and Webster are the latest examples of the greatness North Montgomery wrestling has become.
ALL-AREA WRESTLING TEAM
Baydin Hall — North Montgomery
Parker Moseley — North Montgomery
Logan Sandlin — Crawfordsville
Seth Johnson — North Montgomery
Douglas Ramsey — Crawfordsville
Dillan Lauy — Southmont
Dimitrie Lauy — Southmont
Tim Newlin — North Montgomery
Jake Lowe — North Montgomery
Josh Lowe — North Montgomery
Riley Woodall — Southmont
Jud VanCleave — Southmont
Drew Webster — North Montgomery
Zion Essex — Southmont