When Mike Jones first moved to BC at age twenty-five in 1976, he had so little hope the SFU wrestling program could succeed he joked to his wife, “Best leave our stuff in the boxes.”

In his initial estimation his best wrestler that first year was slow and weak, albeit tenacious. This wrestler surprised everyone, most of all Jones, never losing a match and leading the newly-formed Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club to its first of twenty-eight national titles.

Jones and his wife eventually unpacked and have stayed thirty-five years to date. Today he is regarded not only as Canada’s greatest wrestling coach of all-time, but one of the country’s great coaches in any sport in terms of unmatched success at the national and international level.

There may be no better way to sum up the impact of Jones’ coaching career than to simply list the only four wrestlers inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame: Bob Molle, Chris Wilson, Daniel Igali, and Carol Huynh. Jones coached all of them and each won either Olympic or Commonwealth medals, three of them gold, one silver. Huynh and Igali stand as Canada’s only Olympic gold medalists in the sport.

Born in Lebanon, Oregon, Jones began wrestling in junior high when introduced to the sport by his math teacher. Without the height to pursue a basketball career—“the only other winter option in small-town USA” as he puts it—he stuck with wrestling through high school and wrestled at Oregon State University. Under legendary coach Dale Thomas, who Jones took many of his coaching cues from later on, Jones finished second in the NCAA championships twice.

After graduating from OSU, he heard through the grapevine a fellow Oregon State alum was quitting as SFU’s wrestling coach. On a gamble he took the next flight up, met with Lorne Davies, and the rest is history. From the autumn of 1976 when he started with a total program budget of $18,000 until today, Jones has helped rewrite the Canadian wrestling record book. Since forming the Burnaby Mountain Wrestling Club that first fall, Jones has turned the organization into a veritable wrestling factory, a dynasty that has churned out eighteen Olympians, thirteen world and Olympic medals, eight NAIA team titles, and produced more individual champions than any other comparable program in North America.

Over that time Jones’ resume makes a strong claim as the most influential architect wrestling has ever known in Canada. He served as the Canadian national wrestling team coach at two Olympic Games and countless world championships. For over twenty-five years, Jones has served as a technical volunteer on the BC Wrestling Association’s board of directors providing technical expertise and guidance to countless wrestling programs while fostering an army of young coaches who have risen to prominent roles under his direction most notably Dave McKay, the current national team coach.

Jones has received one National Coaching Award, three times been named CIS Coach of the Year, and was inducted into the Canadian Amateur Hall of Fame in 1992 and the USA Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005.

*Written and researched by Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame.*