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Wrestling with History

The son of legendary coach Ernie Jones, Shawn Jones continues to carve out his own success with multiple grappling championships at Broken Arrow.

John Tranchina
Marc Rains
December 28, 2018

Wrestling has always been about family for Shawn Jones, and that is still the case as he begins his 14th season as the head coach at high school powerhouse Broken Arrow.

Growing up in a house where his father, Ernie Jones, was already an established, well-respected high school coach, and with his brothers, Rodney and Biff, also wrestling, Jones has been surrounded by the sport for as long as he can remember.

During Ernie’s tenure at Booker T. Washington from 1973-80, he won four state championships, coached such outstanding wrestlers as future NCAA champion and 1988 Olympic gold medalist Kenny Monday and NCAA All-American Thomas Landrum, both of whom made significant impressions on the young Jones brothers.

“As young kids growing up, first, him being at Booker T. Washington, coaching the likes of Kenny Monday, Rodney Hooks, Thomas Landrum — we grew up imitating those guys in our front living room,” Shawn Jones says of his dad. “He’d bring their singlets home and wash them, so we were the first ones to be able to get into them. Our entire life has been spent around this sport. He was a great dad. As far as having kids participate or compete in the sport, he was very calm.”

Ernie went on to coach at Daniel Webster High School from 1981-94, with each of his sons wrestling for him there during that time, even winning back-to-back state championships in 1993 and ’94. He then went on to coach at Cascia Hall, leading the Commandos to two state runners-up finishes and continues to teach new generations of wrestlers there.

Meanwhile, after his own wrestling days were finished, Shawn began his coaching career as an assistant at Choctaw, then took over as head coach at Sapulpa before moving on to Broken Arrow in 2006.

While his coaching style has inevitably been significantly influenced by his dad, he also has developed his own brand over the years.

“More than anything, he’s 75 years old and he’s a super-passionate man. He gets after it, and he gives Cascia Hall everything he’s got,” Shawn says of Ernie. “And I think all three of us [brothers], as far as the passion for the sport, our core is all the same and aligns with what we were taught growing up. But I’m 25 years into this, and I’d like to think that we’ve grown. We had a good base, and we’ve got to sprout from there.

“When we started coaching, even though we may have been in our first couple of years, I truly felt we had years of experience on people we were coaching against, simply because we had been around that guy for that time period.”

The brothers do get a chance to team up with their father during the summer at their own wrestling camp that attracts kids from all ages and skill levels looking to improve during the offseason.

“It’s the Ernie Jones Wrestling Camp in the summer. Rodney’s kind of taken it over and runs it. It’s been going on about 18 years now, and it’s gotten bigger and better,” Shawn says. “It’s at Cascia Hall, and it’s basically called the J4 Wrestling Camp now. It’s become a Tulsa staple for young wrestlers in the area.”

The family connection still persists for the Jones brothers, too, because both Rodney and Biff serve as Shawn’s assistant coaches at Broken Arrow. Rodney joined the staff when Shawn was first hired, and Biff, after following Shawn as Sapulpa’s head coach from 2006-13, arrived after that. And all three of them teach in the BA history department — Shawn world history, Rodney and Biff, U.S. history.

“This is mine and Rodney’s 14th year here together, but Biff joined us six years ago, and one of the first, common questions that we’re asked is, ‘I know how brothers are; are you guys going to be able to get along?’ And six years later, the answer is yes,” Shawn says. “We’re all on the same page and each of us have a responsibility, and it’s business as usual.

“I think it’s unique. You can’t go across the state and find three brothers who are allowed to all teach in the same high school and coach the same wrestling team. I applaud Broken Arrow for having the ability to pull this off. I think it would be even cooler if we could get my dad over here. I think he’s probably got another 20 years in him the way he’s going right now, but it would be nice for all four of us to be here together, take these trips and enjoy the competitions together. Right now, it’s pretty perfect. Not only are they coaches, they’re my brothers and I love them.”

As a new wrestling season gets underway, Shawn has high expectations for his squad in 2019. After winning three consecutive Class 6A state championships from 2010-12 under Jones’ guidance, Broken Arrow won it all again in 2015 and has finished as state runners-up in each of the last three years. The Tigers also won three dual state titles during the same time frame. Jones credits a lot of the program’s ongoing success, and its ability to plug new elite-level wrestlers into roles vacated by graduating state placers and champions, to the foundation that begins in junior high.

“We’re the biggest school in the state, and the program recruits itself,” Jones says. “I think we’re solid, starting at the junior high level. Coach Branson Phillips is our junior high coach; he was a multi-time state champion here. He started helping with the high school my first few years, and he made the decision that he’d like to do the junior high, and he does a great job. He gives them a great base and then we just keep it rolling when they get to the high school level. We understand wrestling and success breeds success. It’s kind of the next man up. I know that’s kind of cliché, but we do have kids who graduate. We’re fortunate enough to be able to fill those spots, and we’ve just been able to do it at a pretty good level.”