Iola High’s Trent Jones and wrestling are two peas in a pod.
As a freshman last season, Jones advanced to the 4A state tournament. This year, January’s Male Allen County Area Athlete of the Month is preparing to make another state appearance.
“I’ve definitely improved this year as a wrestler,” Jones said. “I’ve improved my conditioning, motion, and my top-work.
“At this time last year I mostly tried to hold on to people instead of working breakdowns and turns. Now, I have been starting to turn decent wrestlers because I’ve gotten better on top. I’m hoping to make the podium this year at state.”
Jones’ wrestling career started long before he entered high school. He first wrestled seven years ago with Iola’s youth wrestling team, but the story of how he got into competing on the mat is a legend of its own.
“My mom brought home a flier one day, and it was about applying to the wrestling team,” Jones said. “Back then, I used to be a huge WWE fan. Going into my first year, I thought it was going to be a lot like WWE, with the chairs and stuff. I thought it was going to be that kind of activity.”
To his disappointment, real wrestling was nothing like the WWE. But when Jones prepares for introductions, it brings back old memories of his childhood love.
“Yeah, with the introductions… I still get that WWE feeling,” Jones said.
Jones says he carries that WWE mindset into each match. The 145-pound wrestler paces around with his headphones in prior to each match, contemplating what moves he will make when he is called to compete.
One of Jones’ signature wins this season came at the Eureka Invitational in January when he took down class 3A’s top wrestler in Matt Weilert. From the toughest to the easiest bout, Jones approaches each match with the same mentality.
“When I get ready for a match, I just have to keep myself in my head. It is just this guy and I, nobody else,” Jones said. “It is just him and I, nobody watching, nobody in the gymnasium. If you think that there is a big crowd watching you, you are going to fall under pressure a little bit. You just keep it simple, and is just like a normal practice day. Practice like you never won, and wrestle like you never lost.”
But the energy and intensity that Jones brings to that mat is not all he has to offer. In fact, he is a student of the game according to Iola High head wrestling coach Jason Bates.
“He is very technical, and if he sees something that he likes, he asks how to do it,” Bates said. “A lot of times he can do it just by watching and seeing somebody else, which is great. He is just a great kid to have, and is a leader in the wrestling room.”
TODAY Jones along with his fellow Mustang wrestlers will take the 30-mile drive north to Garnett to compete in the Pioneer League wrestling meet. Jones plans on becoming the 145-pound champion, and carrying that momentum into regionals on Feb. 21 and 22.
Although only a sophomore, Jones is already planning his future. He plans to wrestle in college, and has already been courted by Neosho Community College. But before Jones can reach the collegiate level, he just has to keep working to improve for the Mustangs.
“Trent’s confidence is quite a bit higher this year, and I’d still like to see it higher,” Bates said. “But it is pretty tough when he is not pushed to the limit everyday in practice like he should be, but that’s hard to do with the practice partners we do have. He makes everybody around a better wrestler just by practicing with them.”