When coach Jared Jones took over the Elmore County wrestling program, he said it was imperative to make sure to take steps forward every year to help raise more excitement among the school and the wrestlers on the team. The Panthers made that look easy last year with seven seniors leading the way but when that class graduated, Jones knew a small step back could be possible.
“Even though we did lose a good bit of seniors, the group coming back was the group I had in middle school,” Jones said. “That was a good way to look at it. We just fed off some of their experience.”
That positivity helped the Panthers stay focused as they returned five wrestlers to the state tournament and claimed the Class 4A/5A Region 1 Duals title, the program’s first ever region title. Jones is the Elmore County Coach of the Year.
Elmore County did not just barely get past its competition during the region duals but made things look easy. The Panthers had the numbers, taking the biggest team of the six in the field, and it helped them run away with big victories in every match.
“It means a lot,” Jones said. “We had a wrestling recognition last Friday and we talked a lot about that. We had never done that, even with those seven seniors we lost last year. It was a big statement for our program and we’re proud of that. We came a long way in the duals and it shows how much.”
Jones said the rise in the program’s numbers has been a tremendous help, especially in the duals competition. The Panthers filled every weight class more often than not and Jones credited the kids for making that happen.
“This year, I didn’t have to go down to the middle school recruiting as much as usual because the kids did it themselves,” Jones said.
The program’s growth has been obvious even from the outside, especially to Tallassee coach John Mask. Jones and Mask used to coach together and they have remained close so Mask said he has been thrilled to see Elmore County’s success and he knows Jones is a big part of that.
“He loves the sport and he has gotten kids out,” Mask said. “I know the numbers have increased and his love of the sport helps that. The kids come out and buy in. He’s always been a great coach.”
While Jones has set out many goals for his program to accomplish, he gives plenty of credit to his own wrestlers. He said this year’s leaders, specifically Matt Brown, Stone Svencer and Tristan Thornton, helped the team recover from graduating a large class the year prior.
“They were the only three guys coming back and they knew what it took to get to state,” Jones said. “They did a good job of getting there early and staying late to get extra work. It’s big to have leaders like that willing to help out.”