Topsail wrestler Alex Jones overcomes adversity to earn first trip to state championship
What started as a bump on Alex Jones’ knee progressively got worse until the swelling and pain were too much for him to take.
A middle of the night visit to the hospital in early January showed the Topsail three-sport standout had a MRSA infection and would require surgery. With two-thirds of the wrestling season already completed, Jones wasn’t sure if he would be able to finish out his senior season.
“I did not know MRSA was even a thing,” said Jones, who also plays football and lacrosse and signed a lacrosse scholarship with Barton on Tuesday. “Honestly, I didn’t think I would be able to wrestle again, but when the doctor told me after surgery to give it about three weeks I was surprised.”Jones, who is only in his second year on the mat, had successful surgery on January 8 and exactly three weeks later he earned a 49 second pin against Ashley on Senior Night.
Thanks to his coaches and teammates, Jones quickly got back into wrestling shape and surprising won the 3A East Regional title at 220 pounds last week despite going into the tournament unseeded.
Jones took down the top three seeds (including two by pin) to become one of five Topsail wrestlers to qualify for the 3A State Championship, which gets underway Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum.
He pinned his first two opponents before advancing to the finals with a 3-2 overtime victory over second-seeded Luke Kittrell of East Wake. In the finals, Jones pinned previously unbeaten and top-seeded Terrence Raspberry of Southern Nash in 3:54.
“I knew at regionals it could either be my last time wrestling or I could get another week, so I was really motivated,” Jones said. “I was pretty nervous going into the finals because he was undefeated and I didn’t know anything about him. I got in the match and immediately knew I could do it.”Jones enters the state championship with a 29-10 record and a legitimate shot to finish as one of the six wrestlers on the podium. He opens against Union Pines’ senior Jaheem Uzzell (16-4), who was fourth at the 3A Mideast Regional.
Three other Pirates – freshmen Ethan Blevins (106) and Alex Hopper (138) and junior Daniel Arredondo (126) – will also be making their first trip to states. Senior Baker Baker also qualified at 120 and is looking to improve upon last year’s third-place finish.
“A lot of people didn’t even think I was going to be able to make it past regionals and I ended up winning it,” Jones said. “Now, I don’t think a lot of people expect me to be a competitor at states, but I want to go up there and do well.”
Here is the complete list of 33 area wrestlers who will compete at the state championship
220: Jr. DaRion Smith, Pender: 23-5 (fourth at 1A East Regional)
132: Sr. Rogan Heath, Trask: 44-6 (third at 2A East Regional)
106: Fr. Ethan Blevins, Topsail: 42-5 (second at 3A East Regional)
106: Jr. Christian Zickefoose, West Brunswick: 49-8 (third at 3A East Regional)
113: Soph. Joey Panas, North Brunswick: 38-7 (third at 3A East Regional)
120: Sr. Ben Baker, Topsail: 26-2 (first at 3A East Regional)
120: Soph. Malik Law, North Brunswick: 30-14 (fourth at 3A East Regional)
126: Jr. Daniel Arredondo, Topsail: 37-19 (third at 3A East Regional)
132: Sr. Matthew Smith, West Brunswick: 56-5 (first at 3A East Regional)
138: Fr. Alex Hopper, Topsail: 46-7 (second at 3A East Regional)
145: Jr. Hunter Campbell, North Brunswick: 33-0 (first at 3A East Regional)
145: Jr. Bender Sanderson, South Brunswick: 31-10 (second at 3A East Regional)
152: Jr. Yoel Del Rio, North Brunswick: 38-5 (second at 3A East Regional)
182: Sr. Bryan Aragao, North Brunswick: 44-0 (first at 3A East Regional)
182: Jr. Noah Atkinson, South Brunswick: 32-9 (fourth at 3A East Regional)
195: Sr. Sae’vyon McCray, West Brunswick: 50-4 (second at 3A East Regional)
220: Sr. Alex Jones, Topsail: 29-10 (first at 3A East Regional)
106: Soph. Mark Samuel, Laney: 50-0 (first at 4A East Regional)
113: Soph. Jayden Harrison, Laney: 24-12 (second at 4A East Regional)
120: Sr. Evan Kite, Laney: 40-12 (third at 4A East Regional)
132: Jr. Conner Johnson, Laney: 36-5 (first at 4A East Regional)
138: Sr. Marcus Mondragon, Laney: 51-4 (third at 4A East Regional)
138: Sr. Jake Stewart, Ashley: 22-5 (fourth at 4A East Regional)
145: Sr. Seth Thomas, Laney: 42-9 (first at 4A East Regional)
152: Sr. Bryaden Wagner, Laney: 17-15 (fourth at 4A East Regional)
160: Sr. Alex Grommesh, Ashley: 22-5 (third at 4A East Regional)
160: Fr. Trystan Richardson, Laney: 35-15 (fourth at 4A East Regional)
170: Soph. Devon Bell, Laney: 22-5 (first at 4A East Regional)
170: Sr. Jon Luke Horne, Ashley: 33-1 (second at 4A East Regional)
182: Fr. Ethan Files, Ashley: 28-12 (fourth at 4A East Regional)
220: Soph. Corey Pollock, Laney: 45-10 (third at 4A East Regional)
285: Jr. Emmanuel Bell, Laney: 42-6 (first at 4A East Regional)
285: Sr. Jayln McClammy, Ashley: 29-7 (fourth at 4A East Regional)