Ryan Johnson tackles new challenge after promotion to Director of Corporate Partnerships for USA Wrestling

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Dec. 22, 2016, 3:22 p.m. (ET)
PHOTO ON HOME PAGE: Ryan Johnson of USA Wrestling (on left) and Shane Sparks of TrackWrestling/NBC Sports at the 2015 World Team Trials in Madison, Wis.

Ryan Johnson of Colorado Springs, Colo. was promoted to the position of Director of Corporate Partnerships by USA Wrestling, the National Governing Body for wrestling in the United States.

Ryan assumed his new position with the organization in August 2016 after the conclusion of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was serving as Director of Event Marketing for the organization prior to his promotion.

“Ryan Johnson brings a unique skill set to this position. He has the classic wrestler’s work ethic along with a corporate experience that will certainly pay dividends to USA Wrestling. We are off to a great start in a few short months with Ryan’s leadership and we are very optimistic about what the future holds,” said USA Wrestling Executive Director Rich Bender.

In his new position, Johnson has focused on building USA Wrestling’s corporate partnership program, bringing new companies into the USA Wrestling family while continuing to work with existing partners to expand and enhance their involvement with the sport.

“The biggest goals are to continue to find ways to engage more companies in the wrestling space and provide them a home within USA Wrestling as much as possible, while expanding our reach to non-wrestling companies willing to invest in the sport of wrestling and the Olympic movement. For wrestling-specific companies, we need to be creative in finding mutually beneficial partnerships to help them grow while building value to our membership from the relationship. For non-wrestling companies, we need to help them see the value of youth sports participation and the belief in the Olympic movement. We aim to work with partners who want to be connected with the values that USA Wrestling represents.”

New USA Wrestling partners added since Johnson assumed his position include APS, Matman, Suples and ProKure Klean. He is currently working on sponsor renewals and creating new sponsor opportunities.

Johnson brings extensive experience within USA Wrestling, as well as within college athletics management, to his new position.

Johnson started his professional career as National Events Coordinator for USA Wrestling, working on the organization and presentation of major USA Wrestling regional, national and international events. He served in this capacity from June 2009 through April 2012.

He served as Director of Marketing, Athletics for Utah Valley University from May 2012 through November 2013. In this position, Johnson oversaw game day operations and sponsor integration for all home sporting events for the Div. I athletics program there.

His next post was Assistant Athletic Director – Marketing at South Dakota State University, from November 2013 through July 2014. He managed a number of programs for the Div. I athletics program there, including sponsor integration and game day operations.

Johnson returned to USA Wrestling in August 2014, assuming a new position as Director of Event Marketing. He was responsible for the marketing and branding of USA Wrestling events on the regional, national and international levels. Johnson’s efforts helped lead to an increase in participation at USA Wrestling events, as well as expanded attendance at some of the major competitions. He also managed many organization and event presentation duties for the organization.

Johnson was responsible for USA Wrestling’s Folkstyle Tour of America, a national series of youth folkstyle wrestling competitions, which grew in size and prestige during his leadership. He also managed USA Wrestling’s Future Olympian Rankings.

As Marketing Director for the UWW World Wrestling Championships, which were held in Las Vegas, Nev. in September 2015, his efforts helped lead to a record $1.3 million in ticket sales. His efforts helped USA Wrestling, through the efforts of staff and volunteers, to present what was considered the most successful World Championships ever hosted.

“My experience in the Events Department gives me a great understanding of USA Wrestling at the grassroots and organizational levels. This allows me to speak about what USA Wrestling does and what it stands for, which comes really naturally for me. You have to believe there is a lot of potential out there we haven’t yet realized. We aim to be in front of as many companies as possible and extend our brand to new areas. This new position is like wrestling. It is a team effort, but when you are out there, you are by yourself when presenting our organization and sport. And like wrestling, preparation and persistence are the keys to success.”

He was a varsity wrestler for the University of Northern Colorado, where he received two Bachelor of Science degrees in 2009, Business Administration (Marketing) and Mathematics (Applied Statistics). He went on to earn a Master of Business Administration degree in Marketing and Project Management from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in December 2012.

Johnson is a Colorado Springs native and attended Doherty High School, where he was a varsity wrestler.

He will build upon the work of Harris Kalofonos, who worked nine years on the USA Wrestling staff including his final role as Director of Partnership Marketing. Kalofonos left USA Wrestling for a senior marketing position with Nor’wood Development Group of Colorado Springs, Colo. this past summer.