KEEPING UP WITH THE JONSES
Every once in a while you will here of two brothers winning state championships, but three brothers is a rare occurrence. Meet the Jones brothers.
By Kim Goss
Published: Fall 2001
Winning a state title in wrestling is a significant accomplishment because wrestling is such a competitive sport, especially at the high school level. When two brothers win state titles in the same year, you’re talking about an extremely rare occurrence. When three brothers win state championships in the same year, now you’re talking about a mathematical phenomenon. But that’s exactly what Eddie, Daniel and Aaron Jones accomplished this year.
At the 2001 Montana State Wrestling Championship on February 9-10, the Jones Boys (as their father, Llew, calls them) managed to do what the record books suggest has only been accomplished once before. The achievement is even more amazing in that the brothers wrestled in the 189-, 160- and 152-pound body weight divisions, which are among the most competitive weight classes. Further, the boys wrestle in the BC school category, which may be considered more competitive than the A and AA divisions. “In this area there are only 12 AA schools, but there are almost four times that many BC schools,” says Llew Jones. “The competition in BC is considered harder because of the higher numbers.”
Although all the boys felt pressure because the February competition was the last time they would have a chance to accomplish their feat, Aaron, who’s 16 and will be a junior this year, had one of the toughest challenges - but it wasn’t in the finals. In the semi-finals, the wrestler he was facing was a senior who was ranked number one in the state and had dropped a weight class to face Aaron. Nevertheless, Aaron triumphed over this unexpected obstacle and went on to the finals, sticking his opponent in the first round.
Because wrestling is conducted from lighter to heavier classes, Eddie was the last to wrestle and had a close match with his opponent. “I had beaten him before so it wasn’t that I was likely to lose, but I had to go out there and I had to win,” says Eddie. “There wasn’t really a lot of outside pressure on me to win, but all three of us are competitive and I probably would have gotten crap from my brothers forever if I didn’t win.”
When asked what it’s like to coach these three athletes, Conrad High School Head Coach Steve Lockyer replied, “It’s like a dream come true. Not only do you have kids who are willing to go beyond the extra mile, but you also have the parents who demand, push and support at home. You can’t ask for more than that.”
What sets these three brothers apart, according to Coach Lockyer, is a great work ethic. “It started at home a long time ago. Llew has expected big things from them since day one. And with the exception of Aaron, these kids are not great natural athletes - these are just kids who are willing to work and sacrifice to get it done.” In fact, the toughest part of coaching them is finding them good workout partners other than each other to challenge them in their training. Llew, who serves as assistant coach, says, “You know, you’re only as tough as the person you practice with.”
Although they are often forced to wrestle with each other in practice, each brother has developed his own style with different strengths and weaknesses. Says Llew, “Eddie is very good on his feet, runs a lot of front headlock stuff. Danny likes to keep his distance, wrestling low and wide and with a fast attack. Aaron is an arm dragger, very good on top position, and a leg rider.”
Just how do the Jones boys stack up to the rest of the country? Pretty good. For example, all three brothers were invited to the Denver Nationals, a competition that attracted wrestlers from 40 states in all divisions. In this competition Eddie and Aaron won in their respective classes, and Danny captured third. Also, at one international competition, the Reno World of Wrestling Championships, Eddie and Daniel took firsts while Aaron finished second. As for national rankings, which many colleges refer to when deciding whom to recruit for scholarships, all three brothers have been consistently ranked in the top 20.
In addition to their wrestling, the Jones brothers have also made their presence felt on the gridiron. Eddie, who’s 18, was an All State linebacker, breaking the school record for tackles, and also an All State fullback. Daniel, who’s 17 and will be a senior this year, was an All Conference, and Aaron, who’s 16 and will be a junior this year, won several awards for his defensive play. However, Eddie has already decided to specialize in wrestling, and Daniel and Aaron will most likely follow his lead. “My goal is to be national champion in wrestling,” says Eddie. “I want to be the best, and I couldn’t do that if I were to do two sports.”
When asked how his training might change when he goes to college next year, Eddie said that he needs to work harder on improving his ability to ride a wrestler. “In Montana, we really don’t work on top much - wrestling is much more about takedowns here. Because I haven’t worked on my riding time much, I have trouble holding people down, and in college I’m going to need to work on this.”
Although they don’t compete in Olympic lifting or powerlifting, Eddie, Daniel and Aaron could certainly excel on the lifting platform. Eddie power cleans 275 pounds, squats 380, benches 340, and deadlifts 485. Daniel power cleans 250, squats 360, benches 310 and deadlifts 445. Aaron power cleans 215, squats 330, benches 250 and deadlifts 420. And remember, Daniel and Aaron are relatively light (wrestling at 160 and 152 pounds, respectively), and are performing these lifts without supportive powerlifting gear such as bench shirts and supersuits.
Conrad High School in Conrad, Montana, has earned a reputation for having one of the top wrestling programs in the state. In the last eight years of team competition they have been state champions four times, runner-up once, and third three times. As a result of their success, Conrad’s athletes receive invitations to many tournaments, giving them the opportunity to wrestle more athletes from A and AA schools. “As far as our program goes in the state of Montana, I would say that our wrestlers work as hard if not harder at practice and on conditioning than any other school.”
Another reason Conrad’s program has been so successful is that the coaches have adopted a very sensible approach to making weight. Says Llew, “We explain to the kids that it’s important to maintain good eating habits because if you don’t, at some point if you keep losing weight you will give up muscle and strength. You’re better off becoming competitive at a weight that you weigh normally, rather than trying to crash diet to something that is not even close. If you weigh 176 and you want to wrestle 171, that’s probably all right because over a season you’ll get there. But if you weigh 176 and think you’re going to wrestle 152, you’re probably making a serious mistake. You won’t be competitive when you get to 152.”
According to Llew, who serves as an assistant coach at Conrad, conditioning is a major factor in wrestling because the action is virtually nonstop. “The condition athletes must be in to play football, relative to the condition they have to be in to successfully wrestle, isn’t even close.” However, aerobic training is not the answer. “If you’re training for a six-minute match, you want something that will train you eight or nine minutes really hard because you’re trying to prepare for a very short duration, high burst of energy. Exactly what does jogging for an hour and a half have to do with that?”
Llew believe that BFS is a great program for wrestling. He likes the flexibility component of the program and specifically the BFS dot drill. “The dot drill is great for wrestling,” says Llew, “because when someone is trying to take you down they’re shooting at your legs, so the ability to quickly move your feet is an important skill.”
Eddie is a firm believer in power cleans and squats for wrestling strength. “For me, I really like the power clean be