Even before his senior season began, the praise was coming in from virtually everywhere for Owings Mills wrestler Grant Johnson.
That's what can happen when your final high school season is preceded by consecutive 2A-1A state titles and a seventh-place finish in the summer freestyle nationals, which qualifies you as an All-American.
Former Clarion State wrestler and 16-time national champ Wade Schalles, a world champ in 1977, calls Johnson "a class act."
Haswell Franklin, chairman of the Maryland State Wrestling Association, said, "Grant Johnson has as much or more potential to do well in Division I wrestling than any Maryland wrestler in the past decade."
At least 25 schools are recruiting Johnson, a 171-pounder who won his third straight state crown to become a three-time All-Metro selection and this year's Baltimore Sun All-Metro Wrestler of the Year.
"All the nice things people are saying about me don't have anything to do with my performance. The name of the game is to stay focused, and that's what I have to do," said Johnson, 17, whom many project as a future Olympian. "My goals are to be the best wrestler that I can be. If that means the Olympics or a national title, so be it."
As a 112-pound freshman, Johnson had trouble pinning opponents.
"He wasn't really a grinder back then," said Grant's older brother, Gerard, a former state champ at Owings Mills. "I told him once that he'd pay the price for winning those [close] matches."
Johnson has a 115-5 career record, and few high school wrestlers can last the full six minutes with him.
This year's 37-0 record included 29 pins and technical-fall victories over Loyola's Al DiPietro, who was fourth in the Maryland Scholastic Association, and North Carroll's fourth-ranked Chris Boog (31-1), who was third in the states.
Johnson's biggest triumphs were 8-3 over National Prep
tournament champ John Leonardis and by 22-10 over 4A-3A state champ Greg Booth (Arundel).
He was voted the Outstanding Upperweight Wrestler in last week's Senior All-Star Classic at Johns Hopkins. Johnson's next stop before college is the Pittsburgh Post Gazette's Wrestling Classic March 27.
Johnson was given permission to wrestle in a college tournament, where he went 2-1, including a 6-5 loss to a Penn State wrestler who is the reserve behind a collegiate All-American.
His B average and 990 Scholastic Aptitude Test score have schools such as Pennsylvania and Boston College after him. His also is considering top-ranked Penn State, No. 3 Iowa State, Clarion, West Virginia and North Carolina State.