PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — Arie and Jaida Johnson love the sport of wrestling, even in the summer.
Arie joined the Richwoods wrestling team two years ago. Even though the bulk of the wrestlers on the team are boys, she says it’s been a perfect fit.
“I’ve always been tough. In middle school people said, you should play football. I knew I wasn’t doing that,” said Arie Johnson. “I gave wrestling a shot. I didn’t think I would love it this much. But it’s a great sport and I do.”
The sisters not only love it, they’re good at it. Arie, who’s heading into her senior year, won an unofficial state title wrestling last month at 152 pounds. The meet was hosted by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association because the Illinois High School Association didn’t sanction a state meet due to COVID restrictions.
Jaida, who’s heading into her sophomore year, took third at the same IWCOA state meet in Springfield. Jaida just started wrestling this year.
Next year girls wrestling becomes an official IHSA sport with a state series.
“I feel like it will be much bigger when they make it an official sport because it will be more ‘out there,’ people will come in and enjoy the same sport,” Jaida Johnson said.
But the Johnsons aren’t just focusing on wrestling this summer. They’re both members of the Richwoods cheer squad.
They say that wrestling and cheerleading go together nicely.
“We are stronger than we look. In cheer, you throw people in the air and you have to catch them. In wrestling, you throw people to the mat.”
Arie is one of the captains of the cheer squad.
“Going through competition, you’ve got to have that endurance, running around, yelling three minutes straight, throwing girls in the air” Arie Johnson said. “That’s a big thing that plays into it.”
They’ll begin the fall leading cheers for the football team. Then in the winter, receive cheers for their work on the wrestling mat.
And the Johnson sisters love both roles.