For most wrestlers, their toughest opponent is the one standing across from them. That isn’t the case for Montana State Northern’s Jett Jones.
At 21 years old, the Sidney native has dealt with much more than the average collegiate athlete: cancer treatments while staying in shape for the mat.
“It puts a different perspective on, like, what’s hard and what’s not,” Jones said in a recent interview.
Jones has had an eventful medical history, where he has had to learn all about adversity.
“You’re kind of just rolling with the punches going with the flow, you know,” Jett said.
As a junior in high school, he underwent his first knee surgery. In the days that followed, he began feeling an intense pain in his back in what turned out to be a blood clot in his lungs. That is when he found out he had a grade eight blood clot disorder.
So, when he began feeling weird this spring after a long car ride, he assumed he knew what was wrong.
“When we got back after that 15-hour van drive, I thought I had a blood clot in my leg again because I was getting like a tingly feeling in my feet,” Jones said.
For some reason, Jones' mom, Kari Jones, thought that something else was going on, and with so much up in the air, her motherly instincts took over.
“My mom actually drove up to Havre and was like he’s getting a scan done of his chest because the doctor said everything was fine,” Jett said.
As it turned out, she was right. Upon further examination, Jett was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, adding to the long list of medical hurdles he has had to clear.
“You get a diagnosis like that and it kind of stops you in your tracks,” Kari said.
It wasn’t the first time Jett’s plans have been thrown to the side. In fact, he was never even going to wrestle in college until a second knee injury derailed his plans of going to the Navy.
“We were so excited for him when he said he was going to the Navy. Then he got hurt, and so that ended and I think everyone was kind of like, 'what is he going to do now?'” Kari said.
When Jett visited Northern’s campus as a student, word quickly spread that the former two-time state champion was on campus. Before he knew it, the Lights wrestling coach Tyson Thivierge had scheduled a meeting with him.
“With my bum leg, I didn’t think anyone would sign me. I went and talked to coach, and yeah, he gave me an offer, and I was like yeah. I mean, I’m not going to get a better deal than this,” Jett said.
Competing at the collegiate level is no joke, and Jett has been pushed by many coaches since he arrived on campus. That includes women’s basketball coach Chris Mouat, who got a chance to put Jett and his teammates through a workout.
“Coach Thivierge will take my players and put them through a circuit in the wrestling room, and the wrestlers will come up and do one of our conditioning runs. So, Jett got to go through that, so I don’t know if he likes me very much,” Mouat said.
Since then, it’s safe to say their relationship has been repaired. Organizers of a charitable event called Hoops For A Cause run by Mouat selected Jett as one of its two recipients this year, and the group is helping him in his battle against cancer.
“I don’t think I liked coach that day, but I like coach now,” Jett said.
The event includes a 3v3 basketball tournament, a silent auction, and a barbecue for all participants. The silent auction features memorabilia from every university in Montana. Some examples of the items include signed helmets, old basketball jerseys, team hats and other items.
The event takes place on Aug. 6 in Havre.
“It’s going to be able to help these guys when they need it. Whether it’s to get back out to the Mayo Clinic or just follow-up appointments, or hotel rooms. Whatever we can do to help them out, we want to do," Mouat said.
It’s been a long five years for Jett, and he has overcome a lot of challenges. His family couldn’t be prouder.
“He’s just had to start over so many times like from the bottom, you know. And worked himself back up and I’m just really proud of him,” Kari Jones said.
Somehow, he remains confident that he can take down this opponent as well.
“Everything is going well. Maybe not how I thought originally, but best I can hope for. That’s kind of my story the past four or five years. It’s been rough but we’re going to learn from it and get better from it,” Jett said.