By MIKE MOGUIN
GTR Sports Writer
OUTSTANDING COACHES: From left, Broken Arrow High School Coach Shawn Jones, Cascia Hall Coach Ernie Jones, and Broken Arrow High School assistants Biff Jones and Rodney Jones. Ernie Jones is the father of Shawn, Biff and Rodney.
As one of the best high school wrestling coaches in the nation, Ernie Jones has produced many outstanding grapplers. Among them are his sons, who are following their father’s career also as successful wrestling coaches. Currently, Ernie Jones is the head wrestling coach at Cascia Hall, and his three sons are coaching at Broken Arrow High School, with Shawn Jones as head coach and his brothers Biff Jones and Rodney Jones as assistant coaches.
If you ask Ernie Jones how he got into wrestling, he’ll tell you God put him there.
“The day I got into wrestling, I was at a place where I was not supposed to be,” he says.
As a sophomore at Sapulpa High School in the early 1960s, Jones says he had bad grades and a bad attitude. In October of that year, he had set foot on a brand new campus at his high school, which had not opened yet. It had been announced on the school PA that no one was to go there. But Ernie Jones did it anyway.
He remembers, “As soon as the bell rang, this other boy and I couldn’t get there fast enough. We were walking down this pristine hallway and I heard a noise from the other end of the new gym that I will never forget.
“Looking through the window of that wrestling room was the worst person you could have ever met – the meanest guy on campus, the wrestling coach, Jerry Billings, and he slammed that door open and I thought, ‘We’re dead.’ But instead of asking what we were doing there, he asked us if we were going to wrestle.”
Jones says, “We never answered the question, and the coach gave us a pair of Converse basketball shoes, a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and put us to work, and I’ve been wrestling ever since. That’s God at work.”
That incident was the seed that grew into a successful wrestling family that has carried over half a century.
Ernie Jones graduated from Sapulpa High School in 1962. After attending college at the University of Oklahoma, he began coaching as a volunteer at Blue-T, a wrestling program tied with Clinton Junior High, in 1967. Also having a teaching degree, he later interned at Nathan Hale High School and then was hired as the head wrestling coach of Booker T. Washington High School in 1973. During his career he has also been head coach at Webster High School, beginning in 1980, and at Cascia Hall, his current position, beginning in 1999.
Dozens of wrestlers have apprenticed under the elder Jones and became champions. Included among them is three-time Olympian Kenny Monday, who never lost a match from seventh grade through his prep tenure at Booker T. Washington. He was also a three-time All-American at Oklahoma State.
The elder Jones had coached to four straight state championships from 1976-79 before leaving for Webster in 1980. He would coach the Warriors to state titles in 1993 and 1994. He resigned from coaching the year he won his last state title Webster and retired from Tulsa Public Schools in 1998.
Ernie Jones began his current tenure at Cascia Hall in 1999. The Commandoes have had several individuals win state titles.
“I’ve been tremendously blessed with athletes. I’ve had seven All-Americans, two national champions and an Olympic Gold Medal winner and countless number of kids who have gone one to be doctors and lawyers, who still contact me weekly,” Ernie Jones says.
The sons of Ernie Jones had successful tenures on the mat under his tutelage at Webster. Eldest son Shawn Jones, a 1988 Webster graduate, is now head coach at Broken Arrow High School, a grappling power in Class 6A, who has won dozens of team championships, with its most recent being last winter. Shawn graduated from the University of Mary in Bismark, North Dakota, where he was an All-American wrestler.
Younger sons Biff and Rodney are assistants under brother Shawn in the Broken Arrow program. They graduated from Webster respectively in 1991 and 1994, and wrestled collegiately for Oklahoma under Jack Spates.
Ernie Jones says that to be able to coach his sons as they were growing up was wonderful.
“It was beautiful,” he says. “Our living room at home had no furniture in it. It had carpet, and it had doors to shut the den off. And you can’t imagine the competition that took place in that room. From football to wrestling, it was just a war zone. They were little boys at home. They got to grow up in that.
“They were a joy to coach,” Ernie Jones says. “They were hard working and very successful. Just golden memories. There were certainly highs and lows. It was a gift from God.”
The sons have coached their fair share of successful wrestlers, having coached state championship teams in 2010, 2011, 2012 and last year, and dual state title teams in 2008, 2011 and 2014.
Biff Jones also served head coaching stints at Glenpool and Sapulpa before coming to Broken Arrow. He won a state title with Glenpool in 2003. Shawn Jones had also coached at Sapulpa, as well as Choctaw, before coming to B.A. in 2005. Rodney, after being a three-time All-American at OU, went to coach at Mustang and made it a top-five program in one year as an assistant, before he came to B.A.
“We love being part of these wrestling kids’ lives,” Shawn Jones says. “I’m glad he was as influential as he was,” he says of his dad.
“I think we just like the challenge of it more than anything,” Biff Jones says.
“Just watching the impact he was having on young people’s lives, always made it appealing,” Rodney Jones says. “Once my career was over, and these guys (his brothers) were coaching, it just seemed like a natural direction. There was never really a choice that I made that this was what I was going to do. I just continued, continued and continued, and now we’re all three here together, which is an amazing situation.”
“They love wrestling, and I think they’re as great as coaches are in America,” Ernie Jones said of his sons. “They’re happy, they’ve got a perfect situation, so I’m extremely proud of them.
“We love what we are doing, we believe in the institution of wrestling. We know what it has done for us and we know what it has done for others,” Ernie Jones says.