MOORHEAD, Minn. — Minnesota State University Moorhead junior wrestler Cole Jones makes no secret about what his goal is for this week’s NCAA Championships.
“My goal is to be a national champion,” said Jones, who opens national competition on Friday in St. Louis. “I earned All-American status my sophomore year…I know I have some much more in me. I know I’ve done the right things and put in the work to be a national champion.”
Jones (5-2) will face Christian Mejia (8-1) of McKendree in Friday morning’s opening round.
“We feel he’s in a good spot in the bracket but you’ve got to take one match at a time,” MSUM head coach Kris Nelson said. “We’re not going to look ahead. Our main thing is, just wrestle how you’ve always wrestled and don’t necessarily change it up for the opponent. We’re going to preach to Cole to wrestle aggressive. You’ve watched Cole wrestle and he’s an aggressive wrestler.”
Jones was All-American as a sophomore in 2018-19, placing seventh at 125. He missed the 2019-20 season recovering from an injury, which further spurred his motivation to return to nationals this season.
“My source of motivation is, the potential I’ve seen in myself for a long time,” Jones said. “I write my goals down every morning when I wake up.I’ver set the highest goals every year of my career. I feel I’ve put in the work, time and the discipline,..I really think it’s going to pay off. I really do believe that hard work is going to pay off in the end.”
“We knew we had something special with him right away and had an individual who was going to do good things,” Nelson said. “He’s a very coachable wrestler. He’ll listen to us. You tell him to do something, he’ll do it. He’ll run through a wall for you. You want a room full of those kind of guys who can push themselves.”
Jones finished second at the NCAA Super Region V meet in Aberdeen, S.D., on Feb. 27. That was highlighted by a semifinal win over top seeded Joe Arroyo of Wisconsin-Parkside, who was ranked third in the nation at that time. Jones came in as the fourth seed.
“The fact I was seeded fourth, I wasn’t expected to make it. I had a chip on my shoulder,” Jones said. “I was ready for (Arroyo) mentally.”
Jones lost to Trenton McManus of Minnesota State-Mankato in the finals. Jones will be seeded eighth.
After sitting out last year with the injury, Jones wants to take full opportunity of this year’s trip to nationals.
“As a whole, I’m grateful to be out here. There are so many people out there who’d give anything to be in my position,” Jones said. “Knowing that, I look to make the most of every opportunity and use every day to get better.”