GREENVILLE — Greenville graduate Jordan Thomas is no stranger to hard work.
Thomas, after all, finished his Greenville wrestling career with the most wins in school history, three O-K White Conference titles, four Division 2 district and regional titles and three individual state championships. Those sort of accomplishments don’t happen without a little sweat and pain.
Those accomplishments also earned Thomas a scholarship and a spot on the University of Michigan wrestling team this fall. With that next challenge a little more than a month away, Thomas is grinding away on the mat in preparation for his next level of competition.
“I move in about five or six weeks. I’ve already been down there a lot with friends,” Thomas said. “We practice with some of the guys training for the Olympics. Some of the best guys from the last five or six years are all training there.”
Seven days a week. That’s how many days a week Thomas is training to become a better wrestler.
“Michigan is an Olympic Training Center now and there is a lot of good things going on in Ann Arbor,” Thomas said. “I’m looking forward to competing for a starting spot next year.”
In addition to training in Ann Arbor, Thomas spends time in Lowell, St. Johns, DeWitt and more working out and wrestling with some of the other top wrestlers in the state, including good friend and future Michigan roommate Taylor Massa.
Massa, who finished his high school career with zero losses, is the wrestler who handed Thomas two of his three high school losses. Massa also defeated Thomas as freshman in the individual state finals to deny Thomas four state crowns.
Thomas has always sought to wrestle and train with the best competition available. It’s a mentality he has taken with him this summer as he transitions to collegiate wrestling.
Included among some of Thomas’ training partners is 2012 Olympic qualifier Jake Herbert.
Herbert, a Northwestern University graduate, is a two-time NCAA champion, three-time Big Ten champion and four-time All-american. His career record of 149-4 is good for the fifth highest winning percentage in NCAA history.
Thomas loves the challenge of facing the top wrestlers in the country.
“It’s insane, but it’s great. You think some kids in high school are tough and you get to college and everyone is tough,” he said. “Then you wrestle the senior level Olympic guys and I’ve never been beaten that bad in my life. It’s good though, It’s getting me so much better and it’s happening fast.”
Thomas placed second this spring at Senior Nationals at 189 pounds. Normally his summers consist of competing in tournaments around the country. This year, though, he has taken the summer off from tournaments to focus on college.
“I’ve just been training. I’m looking to wrestle 184 pounds this year,” Thomas said. “I’ve been lifting hard and getting big. I’m 200 right now. It’s such a big transition from high school to college that I decided to just focus on the transition and not tournaments around the country.”
Aside from getting bigger and stronger, Thomas is concentrating on a few other areas for improvement.
“Top and bottom is the biggest thing I’m working on,” Thomas said. “In high school it’s not a big deal. I spent most of my time in high school on my feet in neutral. In college, those guys are so good on top and bottom. I have a lot of work to do on how to ride guys out and get away on the bottom.”
Thomas is working on his conditioning, as well.
“In high school it’s not too hard to wrestle six minutes,” Thomas said. “In college every single match will be a seven minute brawl. I’m trying to get my conditioning the best I can.”
As for his goal this year, Thomas is confident of being able to crack the starting lineup as a true freshman.
“They want to put out their best possible lineup next year,” Thomas said. “If that means me not redshirting, I will have to wrestle off for the spot at 184. I’m confident that I can make it.”
The Big Ten is known as a wrestling powerhouse. Eight teams finished the past season ranked in the top 21. Michigan was ranked 11th and was behind six others in the top 10. Penn State won it’s second consecutive national title, which followed three straight by Iowa and one by Minnesota.
As always, Thomas is looking forward to the extreme competition.
“I’m really excited,” Thomas said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun and hard work.”