It was, to say the least, an impressive collection of precious metal.
And a weighty one, to boot.
Elijah Jones, The Mercury’s 2018 All-Area Wrestler of the Year, showed up for a recent interview/photo session with 11 medals around his neck. Believing the plan was for him to be photographed with all the postseason tournament medals for his scholastic career — not just the four from this past winter — the Boyertown senior was an interesting sight in the high school hallways.
Fittingly enough, it was an appropriate visual statement of Jones’ accomplishments on the mats from his sophomore year on. The harvest of medals notwithstanding, Jones has developed and refined a mindset toward his wrestling endeavors.
“It’s not so much about the medals as how I wrestled a match,” he said. “I want to be the best I can.”
He achieved that goal, again in a big way. His last go-round with the Boyertown program was highlighted by repeat championships in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, District 1-AAA Central and South East AAA Regional tournaments, and capped by a career-best fourth place in the PIAA Class AAA tourney — his second state medal, making him the seventh wrestler in program history to achieve that feat.
Jones compiled a 43-5 record this past winter — competing primarily out of the 195-pound weight class — and pinned 29 opponents in the process. Finishing his scholastic career with 132 victories, he ranks 11th on the program’s win list.
“I was really pleased with how the season went,” he said. “My state run … I would have liked to place higher. But I had a good tournament and wrestled well. That’s all I could ask for.”
As one of only four seniors on the Boyertown roster, Jones’ role as a team captain was greatly magnified. His leadership and skill set were key to the Bears going 14-7 in dual matches (3-2 in Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Liberty Division), finishing third in their Brian Bealer Memorial Bear Duals and qualifying for the PIAA’s Class AAA Duals Tournament a fifth straight year.
“I wanted to step up for the team,” he said, “to show we weren’t done because good kids graduated. I felt we did that this season.”
That development was due in part to his interface with stars from the program’s Class of 2016: Senior teammates like Jordan Wood, Gregg Harvey and Tommy Killoran. Being at the same end of the lineup as them afforded Jones the opportunity to work with them and draw from their expertise.
“The first couple years, I tried to wrestle them when I could, pick their brains,” Jones said. “Harvey and Wood improved my technique. I tried to learn the best I could from the guys who had been around.”
Family ties have been a big part of Jones’ wrestling pursuits. In addition to having older brother Dave III serve as Bears’ head coach this past season, Elijah’s father, Dave Jr., was heavily involved with his progressing in the sport from the time he got into club competition at age five.
“My dad had me focus on technique,” Elijah said. “He was there, pushing me to be the best … a coach when I was a youth. He drove me to camps and open matches.”
When older brother Dave took over as Boyertown’s head coach this year, it created a unique interaction between him and Elijah. It was one they made work.
“It’s complicated. Sometimes he had to be a coach, and sometimes a brother,” Elijah said. “He was able to separate the two.
“I liked having him be in the corner. He knows my style.”
“There were times I had to figure out if I should be in coach mode or brother mode,” Dave added. “Being an assistant (at Boyertown) last year helped.”
“What I was able to help him with most was, he has a great work ethic … a desire to be the best. Sometimes he loses sight of the big picture; then I have to stay beside him and keep him working toward his long-term goals.”
Then there was Elijah’s younger sister, Kaitlyn. Easily recognized at Boyertown matches for the bear hat she’d wear, Kaitlyn became the team’s mascot and in-the-crowd cheerleader.
“She made cheers about me and the other wrestlers, and she’d shout them out,” Jones said. “She made me smile.”
While he wrestled a majority of his bouts at 195, Jones was more than willing to bump up to the higher weight classes. He went so far as to compete at 285, going against opponents who weighed upward to 90 pounds more than him … and won all four times.
“I volunteered to go where I was needed, to help the team wherever I could,” he said. “I was pretty thankful to wrestle heavyweight … wrestling bigger guys I wasn’t able to out-muscle, using my speed and agility. I focused on technique.”
Jones will be adding to a growing fraternity of Boyertown mat alumni wrestling for Lehigh University. He will join former teammates like Wood and J.T. Cooley (Class of 2017) in the Mountain Hawks’ Division 1 program, which went 12-3 this past winter — 7-1 in their conference — and first in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) tournament.
“I got quite a few inquiries from colleges,” he recalled. “But I knew what I wanted to do from last summer. Committing to Lehigh early took off a lot of pressure.”
“I talked to Jordan and J.T. … especially Jordan, since he had gone through the program.
“It seemed like the best fit for me. I liked the coaches and the team.”
Elijah has been working out at the Regional Training Center at Lehigh, talking to coaches and hanging with other wrestlers. His plan is to wrestle at 197 in college.
“Wrestling builds stronger bonds. The guys are always together,” he said.
Jones boasts a solid academic resume’ addition to his wrestling credentials.
He is taking all Advanced Placement classes for core subjects – maintaining a 4.4 grade-point average in the process. His plan is to study engineering at Lehigh while he continues to refine his wrestling talents.
“I never look too far back on losses,” he said. “I look to do what I can to improve.”
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