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Tiger wrestlers 'extremely tired of training'

First year head coach Rod Jones eager for competition to begin

Emmanuel Skillings is a returning state champion for BA Tiger wrestling.
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For new – though by no means a stranger to the program – head wrestling coach Rod Jones, Saturday’s Union Open is just another way to get his wrestlers on the mat against someone not wearing Broken Arrow Tigers practice gear.

“We’re at that point right now that I can’t wait for competition to get here,” said Jones, who was an assistant to brother Shawn for 14 years. “To get it right in competition you’ve got to get it right with all the factors playing in as far as aggression goes and wanting to punish somebody you’re going against. That gets hard after a while when you keep going against your best buddy. We need competition to find out where we’re deficient.”

Deficient is an unusual term for the reigning State and Dual State champions who return gold medalist Emmanuel Skillings and state runner-ups Jackson Cockrell, Jared Hill and Bryce Mattioda to this year’s squad.

Jones knows where his team can improve, but noted that the “deficient” area a challenge other teams face.

“The biggest area we need to focus on is the bottom position,” Jones said. “We lost a couple of championship matches because we couldn’t get away. We couldn’t score off bottom. That’s with every wrestling program.

“We’re constantly trying to figure out ways to work that position in the room, but again you’ve got his buddy who’s not realistically putting in a hard ride. That’s why you encourage them to leave their friendships out the door. We’re the only iron we got right now, so we need to keep clashing.”

That’s why early events like the BA Open, where the Tigers crowned 11 champions, the newly added Union Open and the Pre-Turkey next week in Edmond are important for wrestlers. Those opens break a nearly four-month competitive dry spell.

“After state is over they get about three weeks off,” Jones said. “Then, after spring break there’s free style and Greco season and there’s competition every weekend,” Jones said. “The longest break from competition is this break right here. You have to go through August, September, October and basically all of November to get back to competition. 

“All we’ve been doing is training. We’re tired of training. We’re extremely tired of training. These guys train all year round. I’m trying not wear them out, but I feel like I’m wearing them out.”

Seeing the mat from the head coach's perspective produces a new anxiety for a man replacing a nine-time state champion coach, even if it is your brother that you have served along side of during those run of championships.

"I experienced the pressures to some degree the 14 years before (this one), but I’ve never experienced it before from this position," Jones said. "I’m zero and zero. I haven’t done jack."

In December, Jones will begin to feel the real match pressure. He also will start to see how the training and the adding of a third open “benefits us, or if it benefits us at all.”

The BA wrestling competitive calendar begins in earnest with two matches and a tournament in three days. Owasso comes to Tiger Field House in the season-opener on Dec. 5. The next day, the Tigers wrestle at Park Hill (Mo.) and then in the Gardner-Edgerton Invitational in Gardner, Kan., on Dec. 7.

“We’re under a lot of pressure at the beginning of the year, more than other schools to get it as close to right as possible,” Jones said of expectations that come along with being one of the state’s top high school wrestling programs. “I feel like they’re ready to go, but we still have a lot of questions unanswered that we need to figure out in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, we can figure them out pretty quickly.”