The Anthony Jones Jr. story is yet another in urban America where a young African-American male burst through adversity with the strong guidance of mother and other immediate family.
“Anthony’s father was murdered in a robbery just before he was born, so he never got to meet him,” explained Anthony Jr.’s mother, Temeko Manica. “I was looking, searching for something to get his attention. I was coaching at Highland Park and one day Anthony Jr. and I walked by the wrestling room and coach Leonard Logan stopped us and asked us to come on in, Anthony was only 7 at the time.
“We were not really into wrestling so I was like, ‘Well okay, but . . .’ Logan told us to give him two weeks of effort, and, those two weeks have turned into high school and college wrestling.
“Based on our humble beginnings Anthony has exceeded beyond my hopes for expectations. With a giant void left in his life with the loss of his father, those wrestling coaches (Logan, Glen and James Pollard II), starting in the AAU, helped me instill valued morals, discipline and a solid work ethic in him.”
Said Anthony in a phone interview from Sofia, Bulgaria: “I was kind of tricked into wrestling, but once I got into it fell in love with the sport. It gave me a clear direction and identity. I liked that. I was a skinny kid and over the years my body changed and I was like, ‘cool.’”
The former Highland Park star was named Michigan State University’s Outstanding Wrestler and shared the Collins-Mikles Leadership Award for the 2011-12 grappling campaign at its recent awards banquet. The award was an affirmation of Temeko and Anthony’s declaration about his early foundation and its impact on his future direction.
As a senior at 157 pounds, he recently concluded his most consistent season for the Spartans, earning a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Championships after finishing fourth at the Big Ten Championships. Jones finished with a 22-10 record and went 1-2 at the NCAA Championships.
MSU coach Tom Minkel said Anthony got a very unfavorable draw in the NCAA Nationals.
“He ran into some guys that were a couple of the best guys in the weight class and lost to both of them,” Minkel recalled. “Both were very close matches.”
Anthony started off his 2012 NCAAs with a 5-2 win over Albert White of Oklahoma State before falling to familiar foe Dylan Alton of Penn State, 2-1, with riding time being the deciding point.
“Anthony was one of our quieter wrestlers, but at the same time he is a part of the leadership on this team,” Minkel said. “He leads by example and he is just a quality young man. For him to get back to the NCAAs and wrestle as well as he did is a real credit to him and his family. We were happy to have him there and he certainly gave everything that he had.”
By all accounts the Big Ten is the toughest wrestling conference in the county. But Jones went to East Lansing and made his mark, improving every year. He became a two-time NCAA qualifier (2009, 2010). Jones went 4-1 in the 2010 Big Ten Championships to place third and posted a 3-2 record at the NCAA Championships and was one win shy of earning All-America honors.
After sitting out the 2010-11 season because of injury, Jones came back his senior year (2011-12) and put together his best college season.
“As a freshman you dream of becoming a national champion,” Anthony said. “But as I grew and I realized that as a competitor if I left nothing on the mat, I could feel good about my effort and career. I got an education out of it, incredible experiences, lifelong friends, and I’m a better person.”
The fact of the matter is the former Highland Park Polar Bear, Anthony, is in a sport that is dominated by White athletes, mainly because in urban cities throughout America, there are large African-American student populations, but most do not have wrestling programs.
“That is one of the things I just do not understand about urban American cities and their schools,” Anthony said. “If the Detroit Public School League (PSL) added wrestling to its sports programs, it would change the face of the sport in the state. It would take a lot of kids off the streets and put them in an environment that is physical, but it would channel that energy into a positive direction, and, maybe even an opportunity to go to ollege.”
Anthony and the Highland Park program are a prime example of the possibilities for many youth if given the opportunity. The Polar Bears have sent many youths to college and is one of the most renowned inner city programs in the country.
Anthony, coached by Washington at Highland Park High, won the 2007 Michigan Division 3 state title at 145 pounds with a perfect 47-0 record.
“HP is where I learned my craft and where my desire to be the best I can be really kicked in,” Anthony said.
Anthony is presently in Sofia helping train his college coach for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“After this experience I plan to get my master’s and coach. I graduate in May in Human Resources, but I still want to give the Olympics a shot in 2016,” he said.