Johnny Deryeghiayan could have never guessed that an undefeated high-school wrestling career would lead him into a life full of ministry and coaching to teens and young adults. Deryeghiayan’s record showed 26 wins and no losses for wrestling during his sophomore year of high school, but soon he realized the anger that developed from the sport was not worth the championship title he would receive: so he quit.
“I was really angry, always yelling at my parents and throwing stuff,” Deryeghiayan said. “I decided to join track, because you stay in your own lane and don’t touch anybody. It was a great form of learning self-discipline.”
The summer after his sophomore year, Deryeghiayan went to a church camp where he says that he got to know God’s love for the first time. It was during his time he attributes to why he is in his current standing as the new Assistant Head Coach of Vanguard’s track and field team.
“I found God, and I loved running. He really opened up a lot of cool doors for me after that summer,” Deryeghiayan said.
Deryeghiayan is the former head coach of Bonita High School’s track and field team in La Verne, California, where he oversaw the team that broke several school records, had over 30 athletes qualify for CIF finals, and held three state championships.
Not only did his achievements as a coach of the high school team earn his position here, but also his collegiate athletic achievements and studies.
Deryeghiayan decided against joining the track team when he got to college because his high school coach told him he was not good or fast enough to compete at a collegiate level. During his junior year at Point Loma Nazarene University, his friend motivated him to give track one last shot.
“We were walking, and I saw the track team on the field flipping tires and pulling sleds,” Deryeghiayan said. “‘Hey that looks fun!’ I said. And my friend said he would try out with me if I did. So we both tried out and made the team as walk-ons.”
Deryeghiayan competed at the college-level for three years. He went from a walk-on athlete all the way to competing at nationals and receiving a full-ride scholarship through track for the remainder of his undergraduate studies. Outside of his time spent as an athlete, he dedicated his time completing his Bachelor of Arts degree in Church Music and Youth Ministry.
Upon completing his college career, Deryeghiayan thought that his time as an athlete had come to an end.
“I was unaware that there was anything after college, until one night [when] I was waiting for my to-go order at Chili’s [Bar & Grill] and I overheard a father and daughter talking about a track club,” Deryeghiayan said.
The man he overheard was the 2000 U.S. Olympic Head Coach of Track and Field, Dr. Ernest Gregoire, who also served as the Head Coach of the Southern California Cheetahs International Track and Field Club.
Deryeghiayan showed up to the club’s practice and made the team. During his time on the Cheetahs, he competed in the Pan Armenian Olympic games in 2007 and won two gold medals, among many other awards, and was recognized as the “World’s Fastest Armenian.”
Since retiring from his track career in 2011, Deryeghiayan continued to pursue a life in ministry. He holds two master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Theology and Christian Ministry and is working on completing a doctoral degree in Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Prior to coming to work full-time at Vanguard, Deryeghiayan was a pastor at the Glendora Community Church of the Nazarene. Outside of being an athletic coach, he hopes to someday continue spreading the word of God as a professor of theology, where he can use his equitable talents of coaching and connecting with others to give guidance on and off the field.
According to Deryeghiayan, he wants to show students the love of Jesus by practicing the ideology of Christian author Dallas Willard, who said, “I am learning from him how to lead my life in the Kingdom of the Heavens as he would lead my life if he were I.”
“I like to apply that principle to my job as a coach and minister,” Deryeghiayan said. “If Jesus were a coach, how would he be doing it and what would it look like? I pray about it, and then I go in to do the best I can to model him.”
Deryeghiayan makes himself available to students and athletes outside of his time spent coaching. Whether it be giving them someone to talk to about life or being that extra adult in their corner cheering them on and giving encouragement during their time in college; he wants to continue making positive impacts on the lives of his athletes and students. He aspires to continue assisting the team in breaking school records and assisting athletes in breaking their own personal records, and improving their overall performance.
“Coach Johnny has been a great addition to the coaching staff,” senior Noah Rogers said. “Having someone on campus who has achieved as much as he has, athletically and academically, as a full time resource to help guide us through running and our walk with the Lord has been a huge positive . . . and has really brought a new intense energy to the team.”
Deryeghiayan lives outside of Costa Mesa with his wife, where they hope to eventually start a family outside of their busy careers. His mentorship and abilities as a coach has led him to carry close, nurturing relationships with his five nephews who he loves and cares for dearly, along with his other close family members. He is excited for his new journey here at Vanguard with the extended family he has gained in his short time being here.