CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. -- Johnny Ragsdale is a prime example of the old saying, "You never know until you try it."
Now the Gordon Lee High School sophomore can call himself a national champion. Already a state wrestling champion, Ragsdale parlayed a few weeks of training into a championship this past weekend at the National Youth Weightlifting Championships in Dearborn, Mich.
Competing in the 14-15 age group, 50-kilo weight class, Ragsdale won both the snatch (a best of 57 kilos) and clean-and-jerk (78 kilos) competitions and captured the overall title with a combined score of 135 kilos. A kilo is equal to 2.2 pounds.
"Johnny is a good wrestler, but he could be really special in weightlifting," Gordon Lee wrestling coach Brent Raby said. "I mean, he weighs 110 pounds right now and just took 130 pounds and picked it up clean. That's something."
Ragsdale has been training to aid his wrestling at Tennessee Speed and Strength under owner Steve Fauer for three years. Mark Ragsdale noticed that his son had advanced in his lifting and talked to Fauer about the possibility of switching his training to the competition side.
Six weeks later and after decent results at two regional events, he shocked the field in Michigan, defeating defending champion D'Angelo Ross by five kilos in for the overall title. The American record in his age group and weight class is a total of 144 kilos.
Fauer, who has been training athletes in Chattanooga for 13 years, said Ragsdale has three important traits.
"The thing about Jonathan is that he's not a natural weightlifter, but he has a great work ethic, is very determined and has a big heart," Fauer said. "In addition, you want to see him be successful because he's just a nice kid, which is something you wouldn't necessarily expect from a kid who's been so successful."
Though Fauer believes Ragsdale eventually may have to choose between his sports to fulfill his potential, Ragsdale for now is going to try to compete in both.
"During wrestling season I'll train just for wrestling, but after that I'll focus on lifting," he said. "If I get real good at lifting I'll go to more competitions, and hopefully I can get an invitation to the world nationals. I'm going to give it a try."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.