Dave Jones knew he wanted to be Boyertown High School’s head wrestling coach for quite some time.
Well before the position became open, in fact.
“I’ve been discussing it since I got a teaching job at Boyertown four years ago,” he said. “When I got the teaching job, I would have liked to know when I could get the job ... when the day would come.”
It happened within the past two weeks. Jones, who wrestled in the program during his scholastic career and served as a volunteer assistant to Pete Ventresca this past season, was affirmed by the Boyertown School Board at its March 28 meeting.
Jones takes over for Ventresca, who had officially announced his decision to step away from the program after 12 seasons. The move was made public earlier this week, allowing for the announcement to be made at the team’s annual banquet.
“Pete started discussing last year this would be his last season,” Jones said. “There were some items I did to prepare for this season.”
Incoming Boyertown wrestling head coach Dave Jones, right, coaches alongside former head coach Pete Ventresca during the medal round at the PIAA Wrestling Championships in March. (Mike Leister - PAwrestling.com)
Jones knows he has a tough act to follow. During his head-coaching tenure at Boyertown, Ventresca amassed 210 victories, was Coach of the Year in the PAC-10 five times and four times in District 1, accorded Coach of the Year honors by the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) in 2016.
He recalled how Ventresca would conduct workouts at the school at 6 a.m. While the sessions were termed optional and voluntary, they recently drew between five and 10 wrestlers.
“It takes an extra commitment and dedication to do that,” Jones, himself a participant during his school days, said. “It’s good to see a growth in that. It’s good to see that commitment.”
Ventresca, for his part, feels Jones is quite capable of stepping up to head the Boyertown mat program.
“Dave is very mature for his age. He can handle the issues,” Ventresca said.
Jones got into the sport during his seventh-grade year at Boyertown Junior High-East Center. He flourished under the tutelage of Ventresca and his staff, compiling a 102-44 record over three seasons.
His best season was as a senior. Wrestling at 160 and 171, Jones went 43-6, won District 1 AAA Section 4 and District 1 AAA Central championships, finished in the South East AAA Region and qualified for the PIAA Class AAA Tournament.
“He’s always been an extremely hard worker ... a class person,” Ventresca noted. “I pushed for Dave to get the job.”
As a wrestler, Jones blazed a trail for his siblings to follow. He’s seen three brothers follow him into the program over the past decade.
Charles Jones, a 2009 Boyertown graduate, and Peter (Class of 2011) each spent four seasons with the team. And Elijah capped his junior season this past winter with a fifth-place medal at states — that after winning 182-pound gold at the Pioneer Athletic Conference, District 1-AAA West and South East AAA Regional tournaments.
“My dad pushed all the brothers to get into the sport,” he said.
As for the brothers developing a head coach-to-wrestler connection?
“We have a good relationship,” Dave said. “I’m excited about coaching him. As for any awkwardness ... we took care of that long ago.”
Following his graduation from Boyertown, Jones attended Messiah College, graduating in 2011. He was a four-year starter for the Falcons, compiling a 78-45 record wrestling in the 165 and 174-pound weight classes.
Graduating from Messiah in 2011, Jones went on to earn a master’s degree in education. He is currently a health and physical education teacher at Boyertown, and was head coach of the Junior High-West Center wrestling team between 2013 and 2016.
Jones admitted to feeling some apprehension about taking over the Boyertown program, which has produced a slew of champions at the sectional/Pioneer Athletic Conference (48), District 1-AAA West (42), South East AAA Regional (12) levels ... and that’s just during Ventresca’s tenure. Twenty-two Bears medalled at states during that time, headed by Jordan Wood’s 220-pound championship finish in 2015.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Trepidation. A lot of work and a lot of success. But I look forward to building the program, and the people.
“I think some of the biggest things are the level of competition Boyertown continues to have, the spirit, the way people who’ve gone through give back. It’s great to see the Boyertown wrestling family, and I look to be part of it again.”
One of Jones’ big tasks for his first season will be to find replacements for the 11 seniors who will graduate this spring. Those ranks were headed by state-level medalists Jakob Campbell, J.T. Cooley and Matt Wilde, and 100-win achievers Chris Berry, David Campbell and Hunter Vogels.
“We had a good number of seniors graduate,” he said. ”But we have a number of young guys — Elijah, Evan Mortimer, Jakob Miller, Brett Breidor — who’ve done well. I’m excited to see their growth.”
Along with Ventresca, longtime assistants John Cooley and Tony Haley are stepping away from the Boyertown program. That leaves Jones working to fill out his staff in time for the 2017-18 season.
“It’s not finalized. It’s a work in progress,” he said. “We have a great group of coaches that are committed to the program.”
And the legacy of the coaches who were there in the past will help sustain those who will be there in the future.
“The coaches cared for us as wrestlers and people.” Jones said. “I’m very blessed to have great mentors. I’m confident in taking over a program like Boyertown.”