Hayden community mourns death of high school wrestling coach
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Chad Jones represented Hayden High School when he was a senior by bringing home a state wrestling title, and he influenced his community by passing on his love of sports to a new generation of athletes as a youth football and wrestling coach.
On Tuesday, Jones was remembered by many as a man who seemed to have an impact on the entire town.
“He touched a lot of people’s lives in a very positive way, both young and old,” said Nick Planansky, who worked under Jones as an assistant coach for the Hayden High School wrestling team. “He loved his coaching. He was there night and day for the kids, and anytime anybody needed anything he was there for them.”
The 39-year-old Jones, who took the job as the Tigers head wrestling coach in 2012, died Monday afternoon in his Hayden home.
The news passed through the small West Routt County community Tuesday, leaving many local residents saddened by the news.
“I don’t think there is person who is not affected by this,” said Ashley McMurray, a friend and town council member. “His goal in life was to make kids smile, and he would do anything to do that — it made him happy.”
Jones graduated from Hayden High School in 1997 and won a state wrestling title in the 171-pound class that same year. Shortly after high school, he started coaching youth wrestling and peewee football.
“He was into peewee football and wrestling since just a few years after high school,” said former Hayden wrestling coach and athletic director Ty Zabel. “Chad was all about the kids, always. He would help them out if they were having trouble with their school work, and he always had their back.”
Jones also loved getting outdoors, normally with a fishing rod, whenever possible. He also loved being part of the Hayden community.
“Chad was my godfather. He was there when I was born in the hospital with my dad, and him and my dad smoked cigars celebrating after I was born,” said Christian Carson, who was coached by Jones throughout his wrestling career. “I grew up with Chad. We would go fishing together, we would do everything … He wasn’t just my coach, he was a family member.”
Carson said Jones was there for him in 2017 when he blew out his hamstring during his final high school football season and then struggled to get back into shape for wrestling.
“Chad was always there in your ear whether he was talking to you or yelling from across wrestling floor,” Carson said. “He told us that we were winners no matter what the scoreboard says and no matter what anyone says as long as you know in your heart that you gave 110 percent."
With Jones' support, Carson worked hard his senior season, and by the time the state championships rolled around, he was not only back in shape but found himself fighting for a state title.
Of course, Jones was in Carson’s corner as he battled in the 195-pound class at the state finals. Carson lost the match to John Mall's Jason Murphy, 3-2, but Jones was there to put the match into perspective.
“After I lost my finals match my senior year and after I was all done crying, he told me, ‘You know what a dollar and a state title will get you in Denver?’" Carson recalls. “You can buy a cup of coffee.”
On the mat, Soroco wrestling coach Jay Whaley and Jones were opponents, but the two shared a love of wrestling and a love for teaching kids.
“It’s a huge loss and my heart is broke over the whole situation. I knew him as a competitor, I knew him as a coach and I knew him, mostly, as a friend,” Whaley said.
“The one thing I always appreciated about Chad is that he knew it was all about wrestling and the kids,” Whaley said. “We supported each other when we had home dual meets. We went to each other’s home tournaments, and we knew in order for wrestling to survive in Routt County we needed to support each other.”
Whaley said he had talked to Jones a few weeks ago about the upcoming season.
“I feel bad for all those kids in that community,” Whaley said. “I feel bad for the whole wrestling community here. ”
Jones' father Mike and younger brother Justin still live in Hayden. His younger sister, who now lives in Colorado Springs, fought through tears Tuesday when asked how she would want community members to remember her brother.
“I would want people to know just how proud he was of his own kids, just how proud of Piperjo and Saben he was, and just — from my own private conversations — how much he looked up to my dad,” Davis said. “I would want them to know just how proud he was of all the kids that he coached and how proud he was to be a part of the community in Hayden.”