By Anna Kayser
One year after losing in the quarterfinals and wrestling his way back to fifth place at 106 pounds at the IHSAA State Finals, Lake Central senior Mason Jones is looking to leave it all on the mat.
Throughout his high school career, he hasn’t taken too many losses. Eleven as a sophomore, two a year ago – the second coming in that pivotal quarterfinal match that would inevitably propel him into his final high school campaign – and none thus far as he gears up for semi-state this coming weekend.
If you’re counting along, that means Mason Jones has racked up a lot of wins through three years as a varsity wrestler for Lake Central. There was just more to learn in the losses.
“I feel like I took away from just my overall season last year that there was always more I could do, more I could work towards especially when I came up short,” Jones said. “Last year at state, it felt like everything stopped and that it was all over. I had to take some time, sit down and remember that it wasn’t over, there was still more to go.”
Jones now enters his final run at a state title ranked No. 1 in his semi-state 106 pounds and No. 2 in the state, trailing only Delta freshman Jensen Boyd. The rankings are one aspect that has helped him build that strong mental foundation.
“I’d say it is a bit of a confidence boost, seeing that after all this time – all the work that I’ve put in to get to where I am now – I’m getting a bit of recognition,” Jones said.
Looking back on last year’s state run, his mental game is strides ahead of where it was last February. Following his quarterfinals loss, his coaches expressed the importance of confidence and staying true to his wrestling style even under the bright lights.
After getting his first state finals experience under his belt last year, he now steps into an opportunity this year with a more collected demeanor.
“His mental game wasn’t 100 percent there yet [last year], but the biggest difference this year is the confidence,” Lake Central head coach Luke Triveline said. “He’s putting in work in the offseason, he put in the work in the offseason, he’s doing his conditioning, he’s got good practice partners, obviously our team is doing well. And he’s really putting in the effort to mentally believe in himself and put him in a position to make a state title run.
That confidence is just a sliver of his mental game, something that was torn down after that loss in the quarterfinals and something he’s built back up to become one of the best wrestlers in the state.
“My dad is always telling me, ‘On any given day, anybody can win and anybody can lose. You have to go out there and give it 100 percent every time you step onto the mat’” Jones said. “I go out there knowing that I just have to outwork whoever I’m wrestling, otherwise there’s no guarantee that I get my hand raised.”
There’s a balance between being humble and not taking a season record or ranking for good, and Jones works hard to keep that balance in check.
“We just try to keep them humble, keep them hungry and keep them working to do what a state champion does,” Triveline said. “There’s only one state champ in each weight class, so you’ve got to be able to do more and push yourself more than you think you’re even capable of.”
Now, Jones is focusing on giving all he can to finish out his high school career on his terms, leaving everything he has on the mat as opposed to walking away thinking he could have given more.