When girls wrestling became a varsity sport two years ago, Truman put Brad Jones in charge of starting its program. He had never coached girls before, and most of his girls had never wrestled.
“I had to learn a lot about girls wrestling,” Jones said.
Jones learned that he enjoyed coaching girls, and the girls learned enough to have some state tournament success. On Tuesday, Truman announced that Jones would become the school’s first girls wrestling varsity head coach.
“It was a natural fit into that role,” Truman athletic director Daniel Bieser said. “Brad has grown the girls wrestling program from the beginning and we are looking for him to take it to the next level next year.”
Jones, an assistant coach at Truman the past six seasons, will now head a program completely separate from the boys after spending two years guiding it through the probationary period mandated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association. Girls wrestling is now a full-fledged varsity sport, and Jones is ready to make it a free-standing program at Truman.
“I’m super excited that we’re going to be separating a little bit and we’re going to be able to grow and expand on our own,” Jones said in a phone interview Tuesday. “It’s an official sport now and I’m just super excited about the growth that we’re going to be able to have.”
Jones said the girls program will no longer be dependent on the boys teams for scheduling and workouts. Instead of traveling to the same tournaments, the two teams will have more different schedules.
“I kind of envision it like boys and girls basketball, totally separate,” Jones said. “It’s just going to keep separating out further, and hopefully we get to the point where we’re going to have to build a separate room because we’ve got so many girls.”
And Jones expects his new program to grow, just as it has in many schools across Missouri. He started out his first year with six wrestlers and finished with three. This past season, 15 girls went out and six were still wrestling at the end of the season. One of them, sophomore Ava Miller, is a two-time state qualifier and became the Patriots’ first-ever state medalist when she placed fifth in the 166-pound division in February’s state tournament.
“If you look at the end of the season, we doubled our number from the previous year, which I think any coach would tell you that’s exciting,” Jones said. “We’ve got a list of 35 girls that are interested and have signed up for more information. I’m hoping to have 30 in the wrestling room day one.”
Miller’s success brought the team some exposure at Truman, and Jones said that’s helped attract more girls to come out.
“She has a huge drive to build the team and make it the best thing at Truman,” Jones said. “These six girls that I ended up with last year, they’re phenomenal and they’re just going to sell the program to anyone and everyone. And now that Ava Miller is going to put girls wrestling on the record board, people have a visual they can look to.”
The program has come a long way in two seasons and so has Jones, who had never coached girls before. An assistant at Lawson for two years and William Chrisman for one before coming to Truman, the former Lathrop High School wrestler had a steep learning curve to overcome.
“The fundamentals are still there and practical, but a girl's body will move way different than a boy's body,” Jones said. “Once you make that transition to girls you’ve got to kind of figure out and tweak some things just a little bit. So there’s been a lot of learning on my end on how to adapt moves and techniques, even coaching strategy.
“But I really enjoy it. I’ve told some people that coaching girls is a little bit better than coaching boys. I love their attitude, I love their drive. I think having three girls myself in my home kind of gives me an advantage.”
That, and getting to learn and progress along with his wrestlers.
“He does a great job on and off the mat,” Bieser said. “He knows Truman, he knows the girls, and we are really excited to see the expansion of girls wrestling at Truman.”