NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — The State of New Jersey has begun to identify West Essex senior wrestler Alex Jones as one of the top grapplers around; but for Jones, taking down an opponent is a mere byproduct of overcoming his own personal barriers.
Over the years, Jones said he has struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and the anxiety that it has caused him. As he’s matured, however, Jones said he gotten a lot better with his obstructions off and on the mat.
“I reinvented myself this year,” he said. “I think my biggest adjustment is getting rid of my performance-anxiety issues.”
The senior, who transferred to West Essex from Caldwell, noted that the OCD has previously had a negative impact on his life and athletic performance.
“In practice, I usually wrestle great, [and] every club I’m at, I’m usually one of the best wrestlers,” he said. “On the mat, I used to choke a lot, but I’m a new person now; I go out there just like it’s practice and I kill it.”
Coming into this season, Jones looked at the mental aspect of his both his life and his athletic activities, vowing to make improvements.
“I read a lot of self-help books—the law of attraction and stuff like that,” said Jones.
He added that he has also felt significantly closer to his teammates this season, which has resulted in a more familial environment.
“My teammates, they love this program no matter what whether win or lose,” he said. “I know they have my back no matter what and it takes the pressure off of me.”
Through ongoing efforts in research and the aide of those close to him, Jones has been able to adjust and perform accordingly.
“I’m not scared to get taken down, I’m not scared to lose, I’m not focused on the outcome,” he said. “I just go out there and wrestle.”
At the 152-pound class, which is in the heart of the order, matches can often be decided, putting extra pressure on those who compete there. Although the pressure got to him last season, the senior has proved to embraced in 2020.
“In high school, I always felt that if I lost, it was kind of me losing like self-sabotage,” he said. “But now if I lose, I don’t [feel the same]. It’s either I win or I learn.”
Jones is not only undefeated thus far this season at 18-0, he also recently earned the title of Most Outstanding Wrestler during the Essex County wrestling championship at Codey Arena on Friday. The award was presented in honor of former West Orange High School wrestler Christopher “CJ” Morgan, who died in a training accident over the summer while serving as a cadet at the United States Military Academy.
This year, Jones hopes to make it onto the Atlantic City podium with a title to his name after falling short of qualifying for the championship last season.
“I want to be a state champ,” the senior said. “That’s always the goal.”
After winning its first state section title in school history last year, the West Essex wrestling team seems to be continuing its upward trend as it holds a 9-0 record as of this weekend.
“I think this is just the beginning for our team,” said Jones. “I think we’re going to turn into a powerhouse by the end of the year.”