PHILADELPHIA, Pa. — Two of the Valley’s former State Champions continue to make progress at the next level, with the 2011 NCAA Division I Championships having wrapped up earlier this month. Brothers Sonny and Cody Yohn, of Alamosa continue to wear Maroon as they represent the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers. This year, both brothers achieve All-American status at the collegiate level and represented the Gophers at the NCAA Tournament. Both contributed to Minnesota’s seventh place team finish in this year’s tournament. Appropriately, the two brothers were competing in the “City of Brotherly Love” in this year’s NCAA Tournament, held at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Penn.
Sonny Yohn, a 197-pound redshirt junior this year with a , started of his tournament strong with a 6-1 decision win over Michigan’s Anthony Biondo. In the next match, he faced season rival Matt Powless of Indiana. Powless defeated Yohn earlier in the Big Ten Championships, and sent him to the consolation bracket of the NCAA Tournament with a 5-3 sudden victory decision. Finally, Sonny Yohn would wrestle back with three-straight wins over Oregon State’s Chad Hanke (5-3), Nebraska’s Andy Johnson (3-1), and #7 Zac Thomusseit of Pitt (2-1) Yohn would drop with a loss to Stanford’s Zack Giesen (3-2) only to face Powless yet again in the 197–pound seventh place match. Sonny Yohn finished the season with an 18-7 record and the seventh place finish at the NCAAs was the highest of his college career thus far. The finish was even more impressive considering that Sonny had to overcome tears in both his ACL and PCL ligaments early on in the season. “Collegiate wrestling at this level is very intense,” said Sonny. “The biggest difference between this level and the high school level is mental toughness, everyone has the same level of fitness, but the wrestler with more mental toughness is the one who will end up winning,” he added.
Another highlight of Sonny Yohn’s season was his fifth place finish at the University World Championships. “It was the first time I had been overseas for a wrestling tournament,” he recalled. “The major difference was that around the world they focus on freestyle, while here in the U.S. we focus primarily on folkstyle wrestling.” He went on to explain how this gave his opponents a technical advantage, but his fitness helped him win matches.
Brother Cody Yohn was also one of Minnesota’s five All-American selections this season. He qualified for the NCAA Tournament for his second-straight season as a redshirt sophomore. Cody came into the 165-pound bracket as a #12 seed, but started with a loss to Columbia’s Eren Civan with a fall at the 2:28 mark. He then started the consolation round by pinning Chad Porter of Liberty in the 1:40 mark of that match. His tournament finally came to an end in the second round of consolations, losing an 8-3 decision to Brandon Hatchett of Lehigh. “The season didn’t turn out the way I wanted to,” concluded Cody. “I accomplished my goal of being an All-American, but my other goal was placing in the top-three at the NCAA Tournament.” Despite the setback, Cody plans to raise the bar even further for the rest of his career, “I want to be an undefeated national champion,” he explained.
Being brothers competing together on a national level in NCAA Division I is a rare feat, and neither brother takes it for granted. “I don’t know how it would feel if we didn’t compete together, because I haven’t known much else,” said Cody. “My brother has always been my role model, and we feed off of each other’s energy,” he added. “We get used to it, but not a lot of people can say they compete with their brother in Division I,” added Sonny.
But it’s no coincidence that the Yohn brothers have made it this far. Competing at Alamosa High School, both brothers were three-time individual State Champions with multiple All-State selections in both wrestling and football. During their time at AHS, the Yohns were members of the Mean Moose wrestling team that won back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006 as well as the State Championship winning 2006 Mean Moose football team. They credit much of their success to the coaches that guided them at AHS including legendary wrestling coach Gary Ramstetter. “It was huge for us to have “Ram” (Ramstetter) and Rusty (Johnson) show us the basics and give us a solid foundation to move to the next level,” said Sonny. “I think all of our coaches throughout our career made a difference, Rusty Johnson and Jose Ortega played a big role in helping us get recuited.” In the 2006 season, the Mean Moose also placed fifth at the Reno Tournament of Champions, and were ranked 12th in the nation, putting Alamosa wrestling on the national stage. “That season was probably Alamosa’s best ever,” Sonny said, “It helped us get recruited because we wrestled at a national level.”
The Yohn brothers continue to have wrestling plans for the future. Sonny Yohn plans to continue wrestling freestyle and try to do well at the U.S. Open in order to make the team for the World Championships. Eventually, he hopes to wrestle in the Olympics. Cody Yohn stated that his future is “open to the possibility of MMA,” explaining that “It’s hard to make the transition from collegiate-style wrestling to freestyle.” Cody currently majors in business and marketing while Sonny is majoring in kinesiology. With the combination of these two specializations, the brothers hope to one day open up a gym of their own. Until then, the Yohn brothers continue to be thankful for all the family, friends, and coaches in the Valley that have helped them throughout the years.