Austin Jones has a long memory.
An All-Ohioan in Division II as a sophomore, Tri-Valley’s standout wrestler had high hopes entering the postseason as a highly-touted junior.
But he lost twice in the district, ending a season more prematurely than he envisioned.
That’s why he’s determined not to let history repeat itself.
“I got caught looking ahead,” Jones said, reminiscing on his loss to Lakewood’s Junior King in the second round.
That loss led to another loss in the consolation bracket, which ended his season.
Jones enters today’s district tournament at Heath 28-0 at 195 pounds despite missing part of the season after arthriscopic knee surgery. Along the way, he has won his fourth Muskingum Valley League title and a sectional title at Claymont.
His district bracket includes two of the MVL’s best in Maysville’s Alex Pressley, a top seed in the lower bracket, and John Glenn’s Stone Morgan, who he pinned to win the league title.
Jones is one of two top seeds in the upper bracket, but the lesson from 2012 still sticks in his mind.
“I’m just going to take it one match at a time,” Jones said. “I just have to wrestle tough. These guys are in the district for a reason. Everybody is going to be tough so I definitely have to be on my game.”
He rarely has been challenged this season at 195, which is some 25 pounds heavier than he wrestled the past two seasons.
He played at around 210 pounds as a two-way starter for the Scotties’ football team. He said he cut some 35 pounds to make weight for wrestling in 2012.
“That’s been the biggest difference really,” Jones said. “I’ve been able to keep lifting and maintain my strength and power, which is important against the guys in that weight class. I’ve been able to eat what I need and lift and not have to worry about my weight. I can still work my legs, so I’ll be stronger than a lot of the guys I’ll be facing.”
Tri-Valley coach Jared Hindel said Jones will be a bit of an unknown since he missed the team’s bigger tournaments, such as Brecksville. He did win at the school’s own invitational shortly after returning.
“He had the knee scope and he missed a lot of our early tournaments, so weren’t really sure what to expect,” Hindel said. “I think he is worried a lot about letting other people down. It probably shouldn’t be that way, but that’s just how he is. He’s got a lot of potential. The sky is the limit, so we’ll see.”
Jones said his eyes are on Columbus and getting back to the podium, but he certainly won’t make the same mistake twice.
That lesson was learned the hard way.
“Me not being able to get out of districts would definitely be heartbreaking,” Jones said. “I’m not overlooking anyone.”