Changes in Leadership as Broken Arrow Wrestling Undertakes Defense of Title

GTR Sports Writer

Courtesy Broken Arrow High School Athletics
IN CHARGE: Rodney Jones, left, takes over the reins of the Broken Arrow wrestling program. Sitting next to him is Brandon Phillips, one of his assistant coaches.

There are a few changes with Broken Arrow wrestling this year, but it’s all good.
The name of the coach is different, but only part of it. Then there is new blood rising up the ranks after key wrestlers graduated from last year’s state championship team.
Rodney Jones took over the reins of the program nearly a year ago after his brother Shawn Jones stepped down to take on new ventures. He and his other brother, Biff Jones, had been on staff for years. Biff remains on board as an assistant.
“It’s been different and I’m learning new things everyday,” Rodney Jones said. “When Coach Shawn (Jones) was here for 14 years, he took care of a lot of things that we didn’t have to take care of, that I didn’t have to do as an assistant coach. So, I’ve got new responsibilities and am learning new things. Other than that, I’m enjoying it, I’m loving it. It’s been more than 20 years in the making, I was an assistant coach for over 20 years. I feel like I was ready for it.”
The biggest challenge, Jones said, is that there has been more competition for the top spot in each weight class than in years past.
“We have a good culture here,” he said. “These kids wrestle year-round. They’re passionate about wrestling. They live wrestling. We’ve had more ranking matches inside the wrestling room to see who gets to start varsity. It’s been challenging to work through all of that, but at the same time, it is a good sign for the program that there is so much competition in the room.”
Returning matmen who are expected to make noise next month in Oklahoma City, include several state qualifiers from last year: brothers Bryce (120 pounds, junior) and Jackson (126, junior) Cockrell, Blazik Perez (132, junior), Jared Hill (138, junior), Tye Rozell (170, senior), Bryce Mattioda (182, senior) and Emmanuel Skillings (220, junior).
Jackson Cockrell, Perez and Mattioda were runner-ups while Skillings won state last year at 182 pounds.
Before Christmas break, the Tigers wrestled a dual at home against Bentonville, Ark. The Tigers were dominant in the dual and featured new wrestlers with familiar last names. Included are junior Parker Witcraft (113), younger brother of Reece Witcraft (now at Oklahoma State) and senior Zeno Marchesilli (195), the younger brother of Zach Marchesilli (a 4-time state champion now playing football at TCU). Both Parker Witcraft and Zeno Marchesilli were also standout football players this past fall. Coaches expect both athletes to make their mark as wrestlers.
The girls are also excelling and were also dominant the same night in their dual against Bentonville. Jones is excited about the addition of that program.
“My thoughts are growth, opportunity and a long time coming,” Jones said. “Girls wrestling has been growing around the country and girls have been getting the opportunities. It is an Olympic sport and colleges are picking it up. Girls have opportunities to take it to whatever level they want to take it. There’s growth in the program and Broken Arrow is on the forefront of leading the way. We had our athletic administration, our school board, everybody involved for us to put our foot forward and hire Cassidy Jasperson (girls coach), who is just outstanding with the 35-40 girls she gets better every day.
“We’re running 150 boys and girls wrestlers through here everyday. That’s middle school and high school,” Jones said. “I like to say wrestling lives here and it does live here. It’s growing and it’s going to continue to grow and growth is what you want.”

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