By Lauren Jones
The Oxford School District added a new sport this school year and introduced wrestling for the first time in Oxford history.
The Wrestling Team, led by Head Coach Konrad Ernst and Assistant Coach Brandon Beckerdite, quickly made a historic mark on high school wrestling while bringing new opportunities for OSD students – including amateur wrestler Nhari Jones.
Jones, an eighth-grader at Oxford Middle School, jumped at the opportunity to try out for the new sports team and though she felt nervous, was eager to take the mat. She knew her brother Joseph, a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Jackson State University, had the knowledge and expertise to help her prepare for the tryouts physically, and that her parents, Sherna and Bo Jones of Holly Springs, would support her and help build the confidence and motivation which would lead her to make the team.
The young athlete’s new opportunities on the wrestling team came with new life lessons – starting at the team’s first practice, where she injured her knee causing weeks of absence. Though afraid to go back, Jones did not want to quit or give up on her team and started training at home to prepare for the return.
“As a young and new wrestler, she put the time in during practice to get better and focus on improving her technique,” Earnst said of Jones. “She faced some injuries this year and continued battling through them.”
After persevering through many obstacles, including a concussion early in the season, with powerful determination and a positive attitude, the AVID 8 Scholar placed third in the Wrestling North Half, scoring 18.0 team points and advancing with the Oxford Wrestling Team to the State Tournament.
“She stepped out onto that mat in the finals against a new opponent from the south half and did what Nhari does: she hit a great low single, got on top, and before I knew it, the ref blew his whistle, slapped the mat and at that point Nhari became the first female wrestler to win a state championship for our program,” Ernst said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Nhari as a first-year state champ. She has a very bright future in the sport!”
The young champion’s resilience and positivity are credited for her historic season’s end as an MHSAA Girls’ Wrestling State Champion.
Jones has pushed through insurmountable challenges as a young athlete and has continuously inspired others with her unwavering will to overcome them.