Remembering Cyclone Wrestling Great Ron Jones
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AMES, Iowa – From 1961-1965 the duo of brothers Ron and Don Jones, was a staple of Iowa State’s wrestling program. Ron, who wrestled at 130 pounds on the Cyclones’ 1965 NCAA Championship squad, passed away on June 19 from complications of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy at the age of 69.
“He was a great brother, a hard worker and an all-around great guy” said Don of his late brother. “He always wanted to help others succeed.”
While reminiscing about their time at Iowa State, Don said that he and his brother very nearly gave up wrestling after high school, despite the success they each enjoyed while competing for Iowa Falls High School. This success included a Class B individual state title for Don in 1961 at 133 pounds, as well as two top-three state tournament finishes for Ron.
Neither brother had any plans of attending college, as they were working together for a local roofing company in Iowa Falls during the summer of 1961 after their high school graduation. It was early August when their plans for the future were drastically changed.
“One day we were shingling a roof in Iowa Falls and I looked up and there was (former Iowa State wrestling coach) Harold Nichols getting out of his car,” Don said. “He told us he’d like us to come to Iowa State, and two weeks later we were on campus walking to class. When you look at our lives, going to Iowa State and wrestling there, it was a game-changer for us.”
Ron enjoyed a wealth of success while wrestling at Iowa State, becoming a two-time All-American, placing fifth in the NCAA tournament in 1963 and fourth in 1965 while wrestling at 130 pounds. Don did not wrestle as much as his brother did, as he was second in line at 137 pounds behind All-American Bob Buzzard.
Don fondly remembers his time with his brother at Iowa State, especially while on the 1965 national championship team. Don especially remembers how that squad narrowly edged out Oklahoma State for national crown.
“There was no real qualifying tournament so your coach just took anybody he wanted to back then,” Don said. “There was a guy named Jim Homan at 190 pounds and he hadn’t had a real great season, and the story was that (Coach Nichols) almost decided to leave him home, but he took him. Jim Homan ended up winning one match, scoring one point and that ended up being the difference because we beat Oklahoma State by one point.”
Don said that he and his brother often looked back at that season and took pride in what their squad accomplished.
“That was great, we were seniors and it was just huge for Ron,” Don said. “Those things when they happen aren’t as important as they are when we have a chance to look back on them. We were just 21-year-old kids wrestling, but when you look back, it was really important.”
After college, both brothers ended up going into teaching and coaching wrestling. Don said that former Iowa State assistant coach Les Anderson was a key to him first getting involved in coaching.
“They were seniors when I came back to Iowa State in 1964 after coaching in high school,” Anderson said. “They both were so hard-working and we hit it off. We have been good friends ever since.”
Both Jones brothers eventually made their way back home to Iowa Falls in 1977, where Ron was the head high school wrestling coach and Don took a position coaching the junior high wrestling team. Both were a key part in building a successful wrestling program at Iowa Falls.
“We were just blessed with some good kids,” Don said. “When you have good kids that will work hard you can develop some good wrestling and we had a lot of fun with it. Ron liked to win and he was blessed with some good kids and he always got the best out of them. He just liked to see his kids succeed.”