The Jonathan Alder wrestling team will open its gym up Saturday, Jan. 21 for the showcase event of its season, the Ron Thomas Sr. Invitational.
The event had been known as the Jonathan Alder Invitational for years but had its name officially changed two years ago to honor the longtime coach who is still in charge of the Pioneers wrestling program.
Thomas, who would prefer to not have the spotlight put on himself but rather on his team, said he’s looking forward to the annual event.
“If I had it my way it would have never changed, I would have left it the way it was,” Thomas said of the event that bears his name. “It’s a honor to have the tournament named for you, but I honestly just want our kids to go out and wrestle well. It was the Jonathan Alder Invitational when I was in school and that was a long time ago.”
The Pioneers will welcome in Madison County foe West Jefferson along with Big Walnut, West Liberty-Salem, Johnstown-Monroe, Kettering Alter, Columbus West, Columbus Centennial and Bexley. The field features a collection of solid teams with a number of state-ranked wrestlers and state placers from a year ago.
“West Jefferson and Big Walnut are two really good teams,” Thomas said. “Bexley has eight or nine district qualifiers back from a year ago so they’re pretty good too.”
West Jefferson features two of the very best wrestlers in the state with 2016 state runner-up Josh Doherty (160 pounds) and 2016 state-placer Jake Burns (195).
The Alder coach likes what he’s seen from his team thus far, but knows that tournaments like this are the ones that are going to help get his guys ready for the postseason tournament which begin in the next month or so.
“We’ve got a few guys I expect to do real well this weekend,” Thomas said.
The Pioneers have a pair of their own state-ranked wrestlers in Jacob Johnson (120) and Zane Johnson (126). Those two plus Casey Yutzy (220) and Sam Chapman (132) give the home team a handful of championship contenders this weekend.
The biggest positive Thomas sees from hosting the annual event is the fact his kids get a chance to show what they can do in front of the home fans.
“It’s a tournament that the kids want to do well in,” he said. “A lot of the community comes out and our guys get to wrestle on their home turf. They understand that this is important and will give their best effort.”
Wrestling is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and continue on throughout the day.
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.