Triplets Bring Tradition to State Wrestling

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Meleah, Connor, and Kayleen Johnson eat, sleep, and breathe wrestling. In fact, participating in this year's state wrestling tournament in Des Moines is a sort of birthday celebration for them.

"He went to the state wrestling finals and I went into labor," said Karianne Johnson, the triplets' mother, of their father.

Karianne Johnson gave birth to her three children 16 years ago on February 26th. Her husband, Jake, had to rush back from the state wrestling tournament to their hometown of Clarion in order to see his children born. Don't blame Jake - Karianne says she wasn't actually due until April, and Jake's family has made a tradition of attending the state wrestling tournament every year.

Our families, we've been down here for years," he said. "Here with brothers, cousins, matter of fact, we're all between sessions and got the call that she was going into labor and it was pretty crazy."

Since birth, Maleah, Connor, and Kayleen have embraced the sport their family loves so dearly.

"It's our lifestyle, and it's just a part of us, and that's who we are," Connor said. "The state tournament and wrestling, it's what we do, and it's what we were born to do."

Connor reached a big milestone as a sophomore this year when he finally qualified for state; his sisters are cheerleaders, but they've had to resist hitting the mat themselves the entire week.

"I think we do more yelling than cheering," Meleah said. "We can't sit down sometimes."

For the Johnson family, this year's family trip brings their lives full circle; triplets born during state wrestling 16 years ago as of next week, now all taking part in the family sport.

"It's something you dream about, or you think about, but to have our triplets here, two cheerleaders and a wrestler, who would have thunk," Jake said.

It's a family affair - extended family members even fly in from out of state to be a part of it. The Johnson family says they'll be back next year, and the year after that; when the kids are all grown up, they say they'll be bringing their own into the fold.

"Whether it's coaching, or my kids wrestling down here, I fully expect to be here," Connor said.