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PLAYOFF PROFILES : No Debating These Skills

February 16, 1996|VINCE KOWALICK

Wrestling accolades aren't likely to land Larry Johnson on the White House lawn. Yet Johnson still plans to visit Washington--after, of course, he wins a state championship.

Johnson (46-1), a 160-pound wrestler from Antelope Valley High, is seeded first entering the Southern Section Division IV finals today. With a record of 138-16 in his career, Johnson is defending section champion, a three-time Golden League champion and a good bet to improve on a disappointing performance last season at the State finals.

Johnson last year defaulted in his third match because of an ankle injury. He is determined to finish as state champion.

"I'm going to go as far as my body will take me," Johnson said. "I want to earn a wrestling scholarship."

Win, lose or draw, Johnson will travel to Washington the following week--as president of the school's debate team. Johnson will participate in a convention of scholastic orators, and the trip includes a visit to the White House.

As dominant at the lectern as he is on the mat, Johnson has placed either first or second in every debate tournament he has entered this school year.

"I've always loved to debate," Johnson said. "It really helps you when you learn to articulate and speak well. You know how it is, the way people classify jocks. So, when people read about me taking first at a debate, it's really nice."

Johnson has 29 pins this season and a school-record 256 takedowns, breaking his record of 151 last season.

"He's the best I've ever had on his feet," Antelope Valley Coach Jim McNaughton said. "He has a lot of natural talent and he's very strong."

And he does more than just talk a good match.

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