Dave Johnson, Pitt wrestler and coach, passes

David L. Johnson, University of Pittsburgh wrestler in the late 1950s who went on to serve as head wrestling coach at his college alma mater, died this past week at age 82. The school announced his passing Saturday.

Dave Johnson, wrestling for legendary head coach Rex Peery at Pitt, was a three-time EIWA (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association) champion, winning the 157-pound conference crown in 1956 and 1958, and the 167-pound title in 1957. As a Panther wrestler, Johnson compiled a perfect 13-0 record at the EIWA championships, and was 27-3 in dual meet competition. (Pitt now competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference, having left the EIWA in the 1970s.)

Dave Johnson
Johnson qualified for the NCAA championships each of the three years he won an EIWA title ... but did not place at the Nationals.

A native of Lock Haven, Pa., David L. Johnson won the 154-pound state title at the 1954 PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) wrestling championships, becoming only the third state champ for Lock Haven High School. As Pennsylvania wrestling historian Tom Elling told InterMat, Dave Johnson came from a family of wrestlers. His brother Mike became a four-time state champ, and, like Dave, wrestled at Pitt... while the youngest Johnson brother Fran coached wrestling at Bellefonte High School in Pennsylvania.

According to Elling, one of Dave Johnson's teammates at both Lock Haven High School and Pitt was Bob Bubb, Hall of Fame coach at Clarion University.

Dave Johnson graduated from Pitt in 1958. Johnson went on to coach the Panthers for two seasons (1965-67) and graduated from the University's Dental School with a D.D.S. All three of Johnson's sons-Doug, Mike and Marc -- were wrestling lettermen at Pitt and earned degrees from the Dental School. Two of his sons continued their father's legacy by continuing to serve patients at what had been Dave Johnson's dental practice in suburban Pittsburgh.

Johnson was welcomed into the EIWA Hall of Fame in 2005.

Funeral services were held Friday, Nov. 9. The family requests that anyone wishing to honor Dave Johnson's memory make a gift to the Alzheimer's Association.


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