Everything seemed to line up perfectly for JD Sylvanus when Johnsburg’s head wrestling job became available.
The former Johnsburg wrestler bleeds blue and gold, was already involved in the community and still has a passion for wrestling. When the varsity head coach position opened up, Sylvanus knew he needed to give back.
“To have all those things together and a program that’s returning two kids next year, it’s been depleted over time,” Sylvanus said. “To have the opportunity to build something special, that means everything to me.”
Sylvanus, a 2005 Johnsburg graduate, jumped into coaching after he graduated from Lakeland University in 2009. He took over the Johnsburg Junior High wrestling program for seven years and left briefly for California before returning to Illinois in 2017, where he coached as an assistant at Grayslake North for two years. Sylvanus returned to Johnsburg Junior High for the past three years.
Throughout his coaching career, Sylvanus has remained close to the Johnsburg community. Between his involvement in middle school as well as youth wrestling, where his son is in the Spartan youth program, Sylvanus has trained many of Johnsburg’s high school wrestlers over the years.
Sylvanus knows the health of the high school varsity program doesn’t start when wrestlers come to high school, which is why he wants to maintain a presence at all three levels.
“What I’m most excited for is the bigger picture,” Sylvanus said. “Not just the high school, but all three programs can work together and start to see the success in wrestling shift at Johnsburg.”
Sylvanus takes over after Mike Miller stepped away from the program, having spent the past five seasons as the head coach. Johnsburg will return only two wrestlers from last season’s team, including sophomore Landon Johnson, who competed well at last season’s Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) Freshman/Sophomore state meet. Jacob Calhoun will return to wrestling after a year away.
Sylvanus wants to build up the number of wrestlers in the program. As the defensive coordinator for the football team, Sylvanus said he talks to his players about becoming multi-sport athletes not only because it will help each athlete learn new techniques that help in multiple sports, but also to increase the health of all the athletic programs at Johnsburg.
The first-time varsity head coach is happy with what he has seen and wants to build a rapport with his new wrestlers.
“You always want to play that mentor role, be a positive community member and also just bring a resource for them, help them get to the next level if that’s something they’re interested in,” Sylvanus said.
Wrestlers have been engaged in the summer camps and offseason programs and have taken it upon themselves to help rebuild the program. They’ve started a group chat where they talk about who they are going to recruit and how they are going to improve the program.
Sylvanus is excited about the energy he has seen from his wrestlers and he is excited for the opportunity to give back to his home.
“I think it’s one of the biggest coaching opportunities that I’ve ever had at this point,” Sylvanus said. “To put Johnsburg wrestling back on the map, I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to do so.”