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Wholehearted Wrestler 

JHS Student Leads By Example

By Amy Morgan


She loves winning, and she’s not afraid of hard work, traits that serve Johnson High School senior Annika Lopez well as she leads the Jaguar wrestling team. While she’s technically captain of the girls’ team, they practice together with the guys, so her leadership authority extends to them, too. Annika placed second in District in the 114 lb. weight class last year and qualified as a State alternate two years in a row. She’s set a goal for the entire team to sweep the District in 2024 and is bound and determined to place at State herself. 


“I put my whole heart into it,” Annika said. “Winning makes all the work worthwhile.” While she had previously played volleyball and basketball at Tex Hill Middle School, the self-motivated student wanted to try something new. She signed up to wrestle her freshman year at JHS and won only three matches her first year. Annika persisted with club program NB Elite and experienced the thrill of victory, accumulating 100 wins over the past four years. She plans to continue to wrestle in college, hopefully at D’Youville in New York, which has been recruiting her. She plans to combine a major in marketing and minor in entrepreneurship.

Art is another of her passions that blossomed at JHS. Her teacher, Mr. Williams, encouraged her to try painting because “he saw a lot of potential in me,” Annika said. She claims her first pieces were not good at all, but once again, hard work paid off. 


“I’m not as talented as everyone else, but I’m still proud of myself,” she said. Annika sent a pen and ink drawing to the Scholastic competition two years ago that earned high scores of fours. This year, she’s submitted two pieces in oils, a macro portrait of her eye and a Cyber-punk piece that diagonally combines two of her friends’ faces as inspired by the movie, Ready Player One. Annika said painting relaxes her and appreciates Mr. Williams’ continued encouragement in her Art 4 Painting class. 


Although Annika spent most of her time growing up in the JHS area, as a military dependent, she understands the disorientation students feel when moving to a new school. She became involved with JHS’s Student to Student Club and now serves as President. Members help students get acclimated, give tours and act as lunch buddies so no one has to feel alone. 


“It’s hard for kids who move around a lot. I wanted to be part of something I hold close to my heart,” she said. Counselor Elena Sandoval helps the club identify new students and pair them with others who have similar interests. Annika particularly enjoyed a city-wide chapter training at UTSA to learn team building skills, an opportunity she noted as one of her favorite JHS memories. 


The youngest of a blended sibling group of four sisters and two brothers, several of who’ve previously graduated from JHS, Annika’s work ethic and heart for others will propel her athleticism and artistic talents to new levels of achievement. 

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