Zeke Jones leaves USA Wrestling for Arizona State

Updated: April 9, 2014

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Arizona State announced today that USA Wrestling National Freestyle Coach Zeke Jones of Colorado Springs, Colo. has been named as the new head wrestling coach at his alma mater Arizona State.

Jones returns to Arizona State after serving 5 ½ years as National Freestyle Coach with USA Wrestling, the national governing body for the sport. Under Jones leadership, the USA was able to reestablish its place among the top freestyle wrestling nations in the world.

“This is a positive step forward for wrestling in America. The USA freestyle program is heading in a great direction, thanks to Zeke’s efforts. The storied program at Arizona State will get a great leader to strengthen an important college program for the future. We are grateful for Zeke Jones’ passion and commitment for USA Wrestling and the national freestyle program, and we wish him great success with his new opportunity,” said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director.

“It was always my goal to come back to college wrestling. Six years ago, Rich Bender and I talked about serving our country and getting our freestyle program back on track. I wanted to take on that challenge. I feel we are at a better place than we were. Now, I am ready for a new challenge, helping elevate Arizona State’s program into one of the best in the country and position its wrestlers for World and Olympic medals,” said Jones.

Under Jones leadership at the 2012 Olympic Games, the United States won three medals, including gold medalists Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner and bronze medalist Coleman Scott. The USA was also third in the unofficial team standings.

In the four World Championships during Jones’ tenure, the USA came home with a World Championships trophy once, placing third at the 2011 World Championships. The USA was also in the top seven teams in three of those years, also placing fifth in 2013 and seventh in 2009. He led the USA to five individual World Championship medals, including two-time World champion Jordan Burroughs.

The United States competed in three Freestyle World Cups during the Jones era, placing third in 2012 and 2013 and sixth in 2010.

Under Jones and his national staff, the USA was also successful on the world level on the age-group level. During the Jones staff era, the USA won eight Junior World medals, five University World medals and four Cadet World medals, including five gold medalists.

USA Wrestling will begin its search for a new National Freestyle Coach immediately.

Prior to joining USA Wrestling, Jones served as the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania for three years. Jones coached Penn’s Matt Valenti to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007. Penn set school records for most points scored in an NCAA Tournament and having eight returning NCAA qualifiers. Jones was named the Rookie Head Coach of the Year by Amateur Wrestling News his first season there.

He served seven years as an assistant coach at West Virginia, helping coach three NCAA champions, five NCAA finalists and 12 All-Americans. He helped lead the team to three conference titles (2002, 2003 and 2005). He also served on the coaching staffs at Arizona State and Bloomsburg.

Jones was an Olympic Freestyle Coach for the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team, which competed in Athens, Greece. The U.S. won three medals in Athens, with a gold by Cael Sanderson and silvers by Stephen Abas and Jamill Kelly.

Jones served as head coach for the American team at the 2001 World Championships. The U.S. placed fifth in the team standings and featured a pair of silver medalists. Jones was the head coach for a pair of U.S. teams that won titles at the World Cup. He was named 2001 and 2002 Freestyle Coach of the Year by USA Wrestling. He has made numerous contributions as the head coach with the Sunkist Kids, one of the most successful wrestling clubs in the world.

Jones was head coach of the 2003 Pan American Games team, which won the team title and captured four individual gold medals. He also was on the U.S. coaching staff for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games. Among the athletes he coached were 1996 Olympic gold medalist Kendall Cross and 2000 Olympic silver medalist Sammie Henson.

Jones had an outstanding career as a wrestler at the international level. He won a gold medal at the 1991 World Championships. Jones also claimed a silver medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. He added a bronze medal at the 1995 World Championships. He placed fourth in the 1990 and 1993 World Championships. He was a member of the U.S. squads that won World team titles in 1993 and 1995. A four-time World Cup champion, Jones was the No. 1 ranked freestyle wrestler in the USA for seven straight years.

He is a Distinguished Member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. Jones was voted “World’s Most Technical Wrestler” by FILA.

Jones wrestled at Arizona State, where he was a NCAA finalist and was a three-time All-American for the Sun Devils. Jones was a member of the 1988 Arizona State team which won the NCAA Div. I title under coach Bobby Douglas, the first national champion team in wrestling from the Western United States. He was top-ranked freestyle wrestler in the USA while still competing in college.

Jones is excited about serving as head coach at his alma mater, and helping lead the Sun Devil program to prominence.

“Arizona State has made it very clear. They want to not only have the best college wrestling program in America, but they also want to have the best freestyle program in America, which produces NCAA champions and World and Olympic medalists. Our goals are simple. We want to be the best we can be. We want to challenge for national championships. We want our athletes to graduate, to be leaders in society and the community and to be proud Sun Devils. We have a lot of work to do, and we want to do it the right way,” said Jones.

The Arizona State athletic department is excited to bring back one of its Sun Devil wrestling heroes to lead the program moving forward. His appointment will commence pending approval from the Arizona Board of Regents.

“I think it’s a tremendous day for the sport of wrestling in the state of Arizona,” Arizona State Athletics Director Ray Anderson said. “The hire of Zeke Jones makes a statement to the wrestling community within our state that Arizona State University is seeking to reestablish its program among the elite in the country. We are thrilled to welcome Zeke back to his alma mater.”

“I’ve known Zeke Jones since he was a student-athlete here,” senior associate athletic director Don Bocchi said. “I’ve certainly been proud of his accomplishments through his coaching career and his career as a world-class athlete. He is one of the most accomplished coaches in the sport. There are few people in any sport that have single-name recognition. In the sport of wrestling, when you say Zeke, you don’t have to say Jones, and that’s worldwide. That says something to his accomplishments both as an athlete and as a coach.”

Jones is originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., where he was a state high school champion, a three-time Junior National All-American and a Dream Team selection by Wrestling USA

Jones and his wife, Renee, have four children, Jessica, David, Rebecca and Jacob.