“We are extremely excited and grateful to welcome Associate Head Coach Joe Johnston, his wife Melisa, and the three children to the United States Air Force Academy,” Barber exclaimed. “Joe brings a decade of experience from two of the best programs in the country. As a competitor at the University of Iowa, he stood on the podium twice at the NCAA Championships, which is a top goal for our cadet athletes. As a coach at the University of Missouri, he is a proven leader who connects well to his athletes. He brings an outstanding work ethic and a growth mindset to our program.”
“I am proud and honored to accept the position of Associate Head Wrestling Coach at the Air Force Academy,” Johnston added. “The Academy is a special place, attracting student athletes of the highest standards. I look forward to taking on the challenge of supporting these future leaders and helping them achieve their goals. I am grateful to Coach Barber for this opportunity and the warm welcome my family has received from the Air Force Academy community.”
Johnston comes to the Academy after 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Missouri under head coach Brian Smith. While on staff at Mizzou, Johnston helped to produce 36 All-Americans and six National Champions. He coached the Tiger wrestlers to eight consecutive conference titles in 2012 (Big 12), and 2013-19 (MAC), as well as five consecutive top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championships.
He joined the Mizzou staff at the start of the 2008-09 campaign after serving two years as an assistant coach at Cornell College in Mt. Vernon, Iowa. While at Cornell College, Johnston coached the team to a seventh place finish at the 2008 NCAA Division III Wrestling Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He produced six All-Americans in his two years as a coach for the Rams.
Johnston will bring both collegiate coaching and high level wrestling experience to Air Force. He was a two-time All-American for the University of Iowa at 157 pounds, placing second as a junior in 2005, and sixth as a senior in 2006. He tallied a 113-45 career record as a Hawkeye, managing at least 26 victories in each season of competition.
A two-time team captain and Most Valuable Wrestler, the Hawkeye was a top-notch student in the classroom, earning J. Donald McPike senior award for highest grade-point average. Johnston graduated from Iowa in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in art education, and went on to earn his master’s degree in educational psychology from the University of Missouri in 2013.
Johnston also competed internationally in freestyle wrestling from 2006-12 placing multiple times in the U.S. nationals and qualifying for the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Trials.
“We were looking for a coach that would compliment our staff,” Barber continued. “We have two world class coaches in Chris Heilman and Dustin Kilgore, and Joe will bring the same amount of passion and knowledge to our wrestling room and training plan. We also had to have a coach that shares the values of our Academy and program, and Joe lives out our values of integrity, selfless service, and excellence in all areas of his life.
“I would also like to thank and recognize the support of Mr. Nathan Pine, Mr. Jim Trego, Lt. Col. Sean Tiernan, Rich Ramsey, and Doug Wells for their leadership, vision and support in attracting such a high caliber coach to the United States Air Force Academy,” Barber said.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Johnston is married to the former Melisa Katterhenry. They have two daughters, Ruby and Ruth, and a son, Joshua.