Member Since: 2/17/03
Few people realize how huge a figure Johnny was in college. Along with Ben Askren, Brent Metcalf, and Darrion Caldwell, he was probably the most polarizing wrestler of his time.
The thing was, Johnny really liked to win. And when he won, he actually emoted. Fans of Iowa style stoicism couldn't stand this. They wanted their wrestlers miserable: you win, run off the mat and hit some sprints; you lose, run off the mat and hit some sprints. When interviewed, say you could have worked harder. Johnny didn't do this, he actually celebrated and showed joy. Made people bananas.
He wins his first NCAA title fair and square. The next year, he is the beneficiary of two of the biggest screwjobs in NCAA history. In the semis, he wrestled American University's Muzafar Abdurakmonov (who went on to coach at American and is now at Harvard/Kenny Florian's wrestling coach. For what it's worth, in practice, Muz was the best wrestler I have ever seen. I once saw him go takedowns with an Olympian for 30 minutes without once being scored on).
Both guys had been warned for stalling. With 45 seconds to go, Muz shoots a single and the ref calls stalling. Muz's coach, Mark Cody, thought the call was against Hendricks because Muz was in on a shot. He told Muz to put his hands down and circle. Muz did just that and lost by a point - the ref had been calling him for stalling. That year, the NCAA used that incident 3 times in their official rules video as an example of a BAD call.
Then, more famously, came the finals. Johnny was wrestling Ryan Churella and had literally 6-7 horrible calls land in his favor. Most notably, Churella cradled him up and had him pinned for a solid second or two.
Thus, Hendricks won his second title on the shakiest of grounds. He was more hated than ever.
The next year, he was clearly the best wrestler in the country. The #2 guy in his weight class was Mark Perry. Hendricks had beaten him something like 8 times in their career, including 2-3 times that season. In one of the all-time great NCAA moments, Perry scores in the last 10 seconds and upsets Hendricks.
All his haters wondered how the big winner would handle losing. I guess they expected a temper tantrum.
Hendricks smiled, held his hand out, and wished Perry a sincere congratulations in one of the best displays of sportsmanship I've seen. He loved to win, but knew how to lose.
Cheers for a class act.