LONGMONT — Kenny Jones is a creature of habit.

And for the last two years, the soon to be Silver Creek graduate has set his alarm clock for 4 o'clock in the morning to get to the local Gold's Gym by 4:30.

The youngest of three early morning regulars, Jones has steadily sculpted a physique that would make even the most accomplished body-builders proud.

It has worked to his advantage on the mat, building a 37-2 record this season at 220 pounds and he heads to the state tournament at the Pepsi Center trying to make amends for a disappointing showing last year.

"I'm extremely excited because I have a little bit of unfinished business down there," said Jones, who bowed out of the state tournament after just two matches as a junior. "That didn't sit well with me and to be able to come back and treat state like an elephant and eat it one bite at a time to get it done."

The Class 5A and 4A preliminaries begin on Thursday evening at 7:15 p.m. and Jones — who is joined by six other Raptors teammates — will face off with Pueblo County's Ty Sigler (19-13) in the opening round.

The experience of 2015 was a learning moment for Jones, who will be more prepared when he takes the mat on Thursday night.


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"It's a lot of pressure and I've never wrestled in that sort of environment before," said Jones, who could add his name to Silver Creek's annals as the first state wrestling champion in school history. "It's a lot bigger than I expected it to be with all the lights and cheering ... it got to me."

But what a difference a year makes. Jones, ranked No. 2 in the final On the Mat Ranking, is coming off one of the highlights of his career — winning the regional title last weekend at Thompson Valley.

He pinned his way to the title, including in the championship against Mesa Ridge's Dominick Fini.

"It was my real first taste of success," he said.

It was something that first year Raptors coach John Finkbiner knew was in the cards for his senior.

"He has put in a lot of hard work," he said. "He's coachable and he listens. He's just so athletic and he's got that God-given ability and that is something you just can't coach.

"He makes adjustments in matches, he is very calculated in everything that he does."

You would think with all the success and the body to match that Jones would be destined for a big-time college athletic program.

You'd be wrong.

This weekend will be the end of an athletic career and Jones will instead turn his attention to his studies and pursuing his biomedical engineering degree at Colorado State.

Knowing that, he has still managed to keep what is ahead of him this week in perspective.

"This will be the last week of wrestling in my life," said Jones, who is on the same side of the bracket as No. 1 Alex Mai of Fort Morgan. "Wrestling in college is a whole different ball game and I'm looking forward to focusing on my academic career.

"(John) is a great coach and I'm really confident with the way he has prepared me for what is ahead of me this week."

One of the largest Silver Creek contingents to ever make the state tournament, Jones will be accompanied by Sawyer Novara (106), Tanner Eshleman (138), Justis Evans (152), Ceone Evans (170) and Jake Williams (285).

Longmont's contingent includes Will Hickman (126), Nathan Morris (152) and freshman standout Drake Engelking (160), who will face 40-win Kenneth Bullock of Vista Ridge in the opening round.

Niwot's Tommy Stager (132) is aiming to become the schools first state champion since 1983. Alex Gazdick (126) will also represent the Cougars at state.

Frederick's Jake Longstreth (182) and Nick Henderson (220) as well as Skyline's Uriel Contreras (120) round out the 4A Longmont-area field.

Both Erie and Mead compete on the 3A level and each school will have three wrestlers.

Going for the Tigers are Adam Evertz (113), Ernie Quintana (138) and Toby Campbell (145). The Mavericks have Jeremy Ashton (126), Caleb Mendez (145) and Jack Gallegos (220).

If you go

State Wrestling Championships at the Pepsi Center

THURSDAY

CLASS 3A/2A

Preliminaries: 3-6:15 p.m.

CLASS 5A/4A

Preliminaries: 7:15-10:45 p.m.

FRIDAY

CLASS 3A/2A

Championship quarterfinals: 10 a.m.

First round consolation: Immediately following previous round

CLASS 5A/4A

Championship quarterfinals: 12:45 p.m.

First round consolation: Immediately following previous round

CLASS 3A/2A

Second round consolation: 5:45-7 p.m.

ALL CLASSES

Semifinals: 7:15 p.m.

CLASS 5A/4A

Second round consolation: 7:15 p.m.

SATURDAY

CLASS 3A/2A

Third round consolation: 10:30 a.m.

Semifinal consolation: Immediately following

CLASS 5A/4A

Third round consolation: noon

Semifinal consolation: Immediately following

CLASS 3A/2A

Fifth place: 2 p.m.

Third place: Immediately following

CLASS 5A/4A

Fifth place: 2:30 p.m.

Third place: Immediately following

ALL CLASSES

Parade of Champions: 6:30 p.m.

Jon Yunt: yuntj@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/JonEYunt