Eric Jones and the Auburn Riverside wrestling team vow to keep a good thing going.
An assistant coach with the Ravens for seven years, Jones got the call to succeed his older brother, Kyle, who had stepped down to become dean of students at the school after last season.
It has been a seamless transition.
Under new management, the Ravens were back to the business of winning Tuesday night.
Auburn Riverside, three-time defending North Puget Sound League Olympic champion, pulled away from Thomas Jefferson 52-21 in a season-opening division dual meet on the Raiders’ mat in west Auburn. The Ravens, who took a program-best 14 individuals to state last season, have gone undefeated in Olympic duals the past three seasons.
Jones liked what he saw from a young lineup that toiled but kept the dual score close before the heavyweights pinned down the win with a spree of falls in the late bouts. A mixture of freshmen and sophomores and those with little or no varsity experience are auditioning for permanent duty in the lineup.
Auburn Riverside will present a different lineup when it travels to Federal Way to meet Todd Beamer in another NPSL Olympic dual on Thursday
“They did very well, being thrown into a situation that might be different for some. It’s nice to see them do well and battle,” Jones summed up after the win.
Jones, who worked under his brother for the past five seasons – the first two with Steve Mead – has quickly adjusted to the many responsibilities of being the program’s big whistle.
“It’s different. It’s a lot more work, not just the wrestling part. There’s a lot going on,” he admitted. “I enjoy the challenge, but there’s a lot more that goes into it than I ever thought before. It’s different but I’m enjoying it.”
Jones knows how to succeed. He was a two-time state champion as a Raven middleweight in 2007 and 2008. He was a junior college All-American at Highline College and finished his career at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, where he was part of a national champion.
On Tuesday, the Raiders took three of the first four matches before the Ravens scrambled back.
AR’s Ismael Jimenez pinned Osyrus Tuato’o in the first round at 145 pounds to extend the lead to 22-12. Sophomore Collin Morrow (160 pounds) and Gabe Vasa (170) escaped trouble and got off their backs to pull out wild 16-10 and 15-11 decisions over Daegan Fleming and Aiden Shuck, respectively.
Christian Pedro (195), Raj Cheema (220) and Gabriel Mageo (285) punctuated the win with pins.
Earlier, the Ravens’ Cole Cross topped CJ Trevino, 15-7, at 113 pounds.
“Our plan is to go out and win the whole thing,” Jones said of the league race. “That doesn’t mean that it’s a failure if we don’t. We have good teams in our league, but that’s always the goal every year. … Win or loss, the bigger picture is the state tournament. The dual title, the league title is awesome, and winning that again would be great, but I would trade it all for state medals for all these guys and a state placing for our team. That’s what really matters.”