To Don Jones, wrestling is more than a sport, or an activity, or simply a way to maintain a balanced and healthy lifestyle. To Don, a proud member of the Keystone Junior College Class of 1983, wrestling is a way of life, an integral part of his very existence.
That’s why it’s no great surprise that, even at age 60, the former Keystone wrestling great wanted to push himself to the very limits of his expertise and endurance by competing in the recent Veterans World Championship freestyle wrestling competition in Loutraki, Greece.
But even Don will admit that it is a wonderful surprise, and a great accomplishment, that he was able to win the bronze medal in the Division E 70 kilogram weight class (about 154 pounds) at the prestigious world wrestling tournament for adults ages 35 and over. Don finished third out of 17 wrestlers who were recognized as the best in the world in their age category.
“I was so proud,” said the Landen, Ohio resident. “When I was standing on the podium, I thought of all the hard work and training I had done to get to that point. It was such a great feeling, one that I’ll never, ever forget.”
Don is quick to credit those people in his life who helped him attain a feat that had been on his personal bucket list for several years. In addition to his high school coaches and mentors in his hometown of Waynesboro, Pa., he sends special thanks to his coach and teammates during his two-year career at Keystone.
“It’s hard for me to even express my total gratitude for my coach, the late Larry Fornicola, and his wife, Bernie Fornicola. They were really like parents to me, and to our entire team,” Don recalled. “I remember all the times we spent practicing in the old wrestling room on campus, competing at matches, and just enjoying their company at their home. Those days were really special and we learned a great deal about wrestling and a great deal more about life.”
Don Jones stands at the podium, proudly accepting his bronze medal.
Don Jones is victorious at the Veterans World Championship freestyle wrestling competition in Loutraki, Greece.
Don, along with his teammates, played a big role in helping Keystone gain the reputation as one of the top junior college wrestling programs in the nation. In fact, during his final year at Keystone, Don compiled a 26-2 record before a broken arm curtailed his season. However, the former Keystone wrestling co-captain quickly points out that he is equally proud of his academic record as a straight A student and as an African American Scholar.
He also received numerous other athletic and academic awards during his time at Keystone, including being named to the National Junior College All-Academic Wrestling Team, and listed in the 1982-83 edition of Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges.
“Going to Keystone really changed my life,” Don said. “If I didn’t go to college, I probably would have ended up working in a factory somewhere. I learned a lot through wrestling about the will to succeed. When you wrestle, you’re out there all by yourself. There’s no one to help you. You have to want to win and put in the work to get the job done.”
That work ethic continued as he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg University, where he wrestled at the NCAA Division I level. It also continued through a distinguished career as a senior manager in the hospitality industry with Hyatt Hotels and, currently, as a sales executive at Proforma Albrecht in Cincinnati.
After moving to the Cincinnati area, Don became involved in youth wrestling and began to work out with local high school and former collegiate wrestlers. As he continued to train, he realized he wanted to compete at a higher level. He entered local tournaments and began to win. That lead to an increased training regimen and, eventually, to competing in freestyle wrestling, a slightly different form of wrestling than the folkstyle wrestling he had been used to in high school and college. Don describes freestyle wrestling as somewhat more physical, with fewer natural breaks or pauses, than folkstyle wrestling.
The desire to succeed eventually led him to the veterans (or seniors) wrestling competitions in 55-60 age class. He was able to defeat several of the top wrestlers in the world to make it to the podium for the bronze medal in 2023.
“Wrestling has really been a big part of my life,” he said. “But I’ll always cherish my time at Keystone.”