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USA Wrestling freestyle coach Zeke Jones to take helm at Arizona State

Zeke Jones, shown here as US freestyle wrestling coach, will now be head coach at Arizona State
Photo courtesy of ZekeJones.com, used with permission

Zeke Jones, USA Wrestling freestyle coach since 2009, will be returning to his college alma mater as head coach at Arizona State, TheMat.com and the Arizona Republic reported Thursday.

Jones, 47, replaces Shawn Charles, who announced April 2 he was leaving the head coaching position immediately after taking the position in 2009.

The school will introduce Jones as its new head wrestling coach Thursday.

Jones wrestled for the Sun Devils in the late 1980s, as an integral part of the squad that won the team title at the 1988 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The Ann Arbor, Mich. native was a three-time NCAA All-American at 118 pounds (1988-1990), and three-time Pac-10 conference champion for ASU.

Prior to taking the reins of the freestyle program at USA Wrestling in October 2009, Jones had been head coach at University of Pennsylvania for three seasons, coaching Matt Valenti to back-to-back NCAA titles in 2006 and 2007. Before that, Jones served as an assistant coach at West Virginia University for seven years, and also was a member of the coaching staffs at Arizona State and Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University.

College career aside, Jones may be best known for his contributions to freestyle wrestling, as an athlete and coach. He won the silver medal at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, and was crowned champion at the 1991 Worlds. Jones was head coach of the U.S. men’s freestyle team at the 2012 London Olympics which brought home three medals, with Jordan Burroughs and Jake Varner winning gold, and Coleman Scott taking bronze.

"It was always my goal to come back to college wrestling," said Jones. "Six years ago, (USA Wrestling Executive Director) 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."

“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,” Jones continued. “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.”

Administrators at the Tempe, Ariz. school are welcoming their former wrestler with open arms.

“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.”