Andrew Johnson never really wrestled with his decision to study electrical engineering while representing the University of Saskatchewan as a Huskie athlete. Truth be told, it was only natural to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“Yeah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess,” Johnson said with a grin. “He’s an electrical engineer, I’m an electrical engineer. I guess in much the same way that wrestling demands discipline and hard work and proper time management, engineering does as well and I really like those aspects of both.”
Thirty years after his father led the Huskies wrestling team to the Canada West conference title, Andrew helped the Huskies end a three-decade drought and capture the championship again in 2016, this time with his father in the stands cheering him on. For Andrew, it was one of the most memorable moments of his star-studded student-athlete career, winning his first conference gold medal and the team title in a year in which he was also named an Academic All-Canadian for the fourth straight season.
“It was great,” Johnson said. “There had been a 30-year drought, so to finally end it, and to have my dad in the stands watching, that was one of my most special moments in my Huskie career. We have raised the Canada West banner in the PAC (Physical Activity Complex) and now that banner will sit next to his.”
Now in his final season of competition, Johnson wants to engineer back-to-back titles, this time at home in the PAC. The Huskies are hosting this year’s Canada West championship Feb. 10-11 in front of students, staff and alumni as well as plenty of family and friends, including Johnson’s father Terry, mother Yvonne and sisters Emily and Berit.
“Definitely it will be great to be at home,” said Johnson, a 22-year-old from Saskatoon. “The format of the Canada West tournament is more of a team versus team competition, so it’s more of a spectator-friendly format and it is fun to get the Huskie alumni watching you, it feels special. We have been working really hard to repeat this season. That is our goal and I think we have a good shot.”
Hard work is something that comes naturally to Johnson, who developed his work ethic and his love of wrestling at an early age from his father, a former national champion wrestler himself before beginning his career as an electrical engineer. Johnson regularly trains three hours a day, five days a week, with the Huskie wrestling team, and spends most of his weekends travelling and competing in tournaments. His determination is reflected in his trophy case, with Canada West gold and national silver medals to his credit.
Johnson’s wrestling work is matched by his commitment in the classroom in the College of Engineering, with four straight years of grade point averages between 81 and 86 to earn Academic All-Canadian honours all four years while taking full course loads.
“Having been All-Academic in each of my four years is definitely a point of pride for me,” Johnson said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the marks that I want, and to have the same success in wrestling requires the same work.”
Serving as captain of the Huskies wresting team, Johnson leads by example and knows exactly when to speak up, according to head coach Daniel Olver.
“He is just a great role model for us, showing how you can be a successful student-athlete,” Olver said. “He is in a tough college in engineering and yet he has some of the best marks on the team, while also achieving a high level of success in the sport, finishing second at nationals last year. So he shows that you can manage both at the same time. And he always delivers the perfect message to his teammates. He definitely knows when to speak up, and when he does, it’s right on the mark.”
As he completes his final year of studies, Johnson is looking forward to building a career as an entrepreneurial engineering consultant and designer. Athletically, he is focused on becoming a national champion, with hopes of representing Canada in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. But first, he wants to cap his career with another Canada West conference championship here at the U of S, while raising the profile of the Huskies program and putting wrestling in the spotlight.
“Wrestling is a bit of a niche sport and the recognition is not really there,” Johnson said. “But when we host these tournaments, I always look forward to trying to raise the profile of wrestling and that is something that I am really passionate about. We are in the PAC for the first time for the conference championship, so I am hoping that we can get a good turnout this year.
“And personally, I came up a little short on the podium last year at nationals, but all of my energies have been focused on getting gold this year. If I could end my career like that, that would be the best way to go out.”