For the first time in a long time, there will be a new face coaching SFU women’s wrestling. After more than 40 years at SFU, head coach Mike Jones has announced his retirement.
In his bio on the BC Sports Hall of Fame website, Jones is regarded as “not only as Canada’s greatest wrestling coach of all-time, but one of the country’s great coaches in any sport in terms of unmatched success at the national and international level.”
“I’ve been toying with it before, but I made it before the national tournament,” Jones told The Peak. “We’d kind of decided that April will be my last day but [the national championships were the] last tournament that I [will] go to.
“I’m going to be looking at it from a cheerleader’s point of view next year. [. . .] It’s going to be exciting for somebody, a new head coach, to come in with that strength on the team. Could be frustrating if it doesn’t [go well], but I can’t see this group with their personalities not doing well.”
Although Jones will not be the head coach, he will still be a consultant of sorts for the team, helping out with the wrestling side when he can.
“I’m [going to] come in and help with the wrestling side of it, mostly,” he explained. “Get rid of the administration side of it. In that way I’m looking forward to it, because sometimes you get to work a little bit more on the actual wrestling part of it.
“But [it’s] the kids I’m going to miss. You get pretty close to them when you work with a group that has high goals and all the anxieties that go with that.”
It’s been a remarkable time at SFU for Jones. The longtime coach has had a hand in multiple national champions since starting at SFU back in 1976.
“it took us into the ‘82–83 [season] until that whole belief, that yes we can win at this and it doesn’t matter that we’re going to a different style; we can compete at this top level,” reflected Jones on his beginnings at SFU. “It definitely is ego to think that you can do it quickly, but it takes you seven to eight years to really put it together.”
Perhaps even more impressive was his hand in the Olympics. Jones served as the head coach of Canada in two Olympics, and has coached a number of Olympic medalists recently as well, including three who won gold — Daniel Igali in 2000, Carol Huynh in 2008, and Helen Maroulis in 2016.
“I’d like to be able to tell people that I built them from scratch, but that’s not the case,” said Jones. “Those were good athletes to start with and in some ways, you just feel good that you didn’t screw up their chance. You just kind of get them into the matches that they need and let them go.”
Although he won’t be a part of it, Jones is looking forward to the future of the program, whoever is in charge next year.
“Definitely exciting to see those things happen and I’m going to be excited [to see] who’s going to be the next head coach,” he said. “I don’t want the program to go down; I want the program to keep going forward.”