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NEWS | June 15, 2022

From the Mat to the Workplace: NSWC Dahlgren Division Senior Systems Engineer Volunteers with Local Wrestling Program

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

When you look back on your life, what decisions stand out to you? Is there someone specific that you can attribute a mark and turn in your life? For Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Combat Systems Simulation Lead Senior Systems Engineer for the Warfare Analysis and Digital Modeling Department Randy Johnson, two teachers shaped his life in an unexpected way.

The first teacher impacted his life as a sophomore in high school when he brought a wrestling program to the school.

“I didn’t know anything about wrestling at the time,” recalled Johnson. “I tell everyone that out of all the sports I have been involved with, wrestling teaches you the most about yourself.”

The second teacher was a professor at Chadron State College in Nebraska where Johnson graduated as a triple major in math, physics and computer science, who connected the then-recent graduate to a contact at NSWC Dahlgren Division. The two shaped his life in an insurmountable way.

Johnson joined the NSWCDD workforce 35 years ago, uprooting his life in Nebraska to move to King George County. It wasn’t until about 10 years later that Johnson would get the opportunity to bring up the next generation of wrestlers.

“Twenty-six years ago, I had a son who was just turning five. Two local guys had just started a wrestling program with King George Parks and Recreation and suggested I bring my son out. I brought him out and have been coaching ever since,” said Johnson.

Nearly 10 years ago, the parks and recreation program linked up with the Northern Virginia Wrestling Foundation to get participants more tournament mat time.

“We go to different high schools in the area. The referees are high school wrestlers who are donating their time. It’s beneficial for them because they get to see a match from the other side of the whistle, and it keeps the costs down on our end,” he explained.

This year, the program had 42 registered wrestlers – both boys and girls – ranging in age from four to 13. The parks and recreation program feeds into the county’s middle and high school programs.

“Wrestling is a love for me. When you’re out there on the mat, there is no one else to look to – it’s you against your opponent. It teaches you a lot about life, determination and stamina. You have to take responsibility when something goes wrong,” said Johnson. “It’s a hard grind to finish the season. Things aren’t easy, and they take a lot of determination to see them through. That’s a mentality I apply to my job here at Dahlgren.”

Johnson is one of seven NSWCDD employees to be recognized with the Distinguished Community Service Award this year. According to the award citation, Johnson’s “leadership and guidance of the boys in King George has contributed greatly to the success of the young men [and women] in the community.” Johnson will receive his award June 17 at the NSWCDD Honorary Awards ceremony in Fredericksburg.