Demetrius "Bucky" Johnson is coming back to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling program after all.
Forced to sit out the 2011-12 season for all but one match because of a knee injury, Johnson is working his way toward the Mocs' 125-pound slot. He has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.
"It's rare that the NCAA grants that sixth year, but it's also rare that you have a wrestler who has dealt with the injuries he has dealt with," UTC coach Heath Eslinger said.
Johnson, a two-time conference champ, gives the Mocs instant credibility at 125 pounds, where they suffered at times last season before the arrival of UNC Greensboro transfer Manny Ramirez, a senior who represented the Mocs in a couple of matches and in the postseason.
"I'm pumped," Johnson said. "I didn't really make up my mind to apply for [the hardship] until December. I decided I didn't want last year to be my last."
A dean's list member in each of his semesters at UTC, Johnson has enrolled in graduate school. He has a degree in criminal justice and remains atop the list for the Chattanooga police department's next academy. He has put those plans on hold, and he and fiancee Chelsey Price have decided to put wedding plans on hold.
"We're on the same page and decided it was best to go to graduate school rather than taking random classes just to be eligible," he said. "I guess in one way I'm putting my life on hold for something I want to do -- becoming an All-American."
Johnson is a two-time NCAA tournament qualifier.
"It strengthens your lineup to have a conference champ that's as talented and tough and so strong in the classroom," Eslinger said. "He strengthens us in all areas -- athletically, academically and socially."
Ward Gossett is an assistant sports editor and writer for the Times Free Press. Ward has a long history in Chattanooga journalism. He actually wrote a bylined story for the Chattanooga News-Free Press as a third-grader. He Began working part-time there in 1968 and was hired full time in 1970. Ward now covers high school athletics, primarily football, wrestling and baseball and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestling. Over a 40-year career, he has covered ...