In the fall, Cash Jones will make his college debut as the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s first official member of the university’s new NCAA Division I wrestling program.
As one of the first members of UA Little Rock’s debut wrestling cohort, the Bentonville native is coming off an impressive record at Bentonville High School and has plans to keep the momentum going at the college level.
“I want to be a national champion, and I want to be a conference champion,” Jones said. “I want to make my family proud of me, and I want to make Arkansas proud.”
The applied communications major hopes to help establish Arkansas as a major wrestling state.
“I hope that we can begin to start establishing ourselves as a serious state in wrestling,” he said. “I want to build a good team at UA Little Rock with good coaches and good wrestlers. I also want to establish more youth teams, so we can have more wrestlers compete at a higher level.”
Wrestling has been a major part of Jones’ life since he was a child.
“I’ve always been involved in combat sports like karate, jitsu, and boxing,” he said. “When I was 9, my dad brought home a paper advertising the local youth wrestling league, and I’ve been wrestling ever since.”
By the time he was in seventh grade, wrestling became Jones’ primary sport. Under Coach James Rappe, Jones became a three-time state champion at Bentonville High School. He helped lead the Tigers to back-to-back Class 6A/7A state titles in 2017 and 2018 and posted a career high school record of 227-11, including a mark of 62-1 as a senior. Jones recorded 15 individual championships during his high school career, all while serving two years as captain of the wrestling team and making the honor roll all four years.
“In high school, I had a very good support system. They kept me motivated and kept me doing the right thing so I could succeed,” said Jones, adding his love of the sport comes from the rush he gets every time he steps on the mat.
“Wrestling is one-on-one. It’s just me out there,” Jones said. “It’s an individual expression. I don’t have to rely on anyone else but me. It’s high-risk, high-reward, and a gamble every time. I love it.”
It seems as if Jones was born to be an athlete, since his parents, David and Sheila Jones, named him after a rodeo star who was a friend of the family.
“My dad grew up these rodeo guys: Cash, Rope, and Ty. When I was born, Dad told my mom that she could choose between those three names,” Jones said. “No one is going to call their son Rope, and everyone is named Ty, so they decided on Cash.”
After high school, Jones originally committed to Campbell University in North Carolina, but transferred to UA Little Rock after learning the university was starting the first college wrestling program in his home state.
“I’m ecstatic to be at UA Little Rock,” he said. “It’s not often that you get the opportunity to be the first at something, and here you can be the first person to do everything in wrestling. You can be the first person to win a match, the first person to be a national champion, and the first person to All-American. That’s an opportunity I’d really like to have.”
That’s an opportunity he hopes to achieve under the mentorship of UA Little Rock’s head wrestling Coach Neil Erisman.
“Coach Erisman is my mentor,” Jones said. “He is a great guy. He’s not just an on the mat coach, which is what you get at a lot of colleges. He genuinely cares about you on and off the mat. He does everything he can to shape you into a and make you a better person.”
His advice for anyone who aspires to become a collegiate wrestling athlete is to work hard and prepare yourself for the challenges that come with being a college athlete.
“There is a lot that goes in wrestling at the college level, some good times and some bad times,” Jones said. “Work as hard as you can and make the right the decisions, because you have to make it through the bad times to make it to the good times.”