Sammy Jones is a University World bronze medalist (2014), three-time US Open runner-up, and current National Team member. Due to his talent, experience, and consistency, Jones is widely recognized as a potential Olympic Team member for Tokyo 2021 at 60 kilograms. But for as much as Jones is identified by his competitive prowess, he is equally well-known for his faith in Christ, if not more so. A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Jones resides in Marquette with his wife, Natalie, where they enjoy camping, Bible study, cooking, and playing music.
I love how wrestling demands my attention. When I step on the mat, there is no space for distraction. Interruptions and outside noises are there, but these surrounding noises, both on and off the mat, rally to pull us away from the fight. To be successful at the highest level, consistent devotion to the present above all else is key. Outside of this moment, nothing past and nothing to come matters. It is all about this moment.
As wrestlers, we are heat-seeking missiles targeted at conquering our individual aspirations. It is in our nature to compete. At the same time, life is crazy. Without a daily head check, we so easily become tangled up in the chaos.
When faced with the turmoil that life throws at us, we can either be consumed by distractions; or we can intentionally choose to pause and turn our attention to something greater within that moment. For me, a relationship with Jesus Christ is the only source of confidence I can fully trust.
My faith in God and my experience with wrestling are not mutually exclusive.
This sport has been a tool for me. I firmly believe God has given me a gift and desire for wrestling simply to know and experience Him more. Through wrestling, I have grown as an individual and as a competitor. It has carried me through life’s incredible highs and gut-wrenching lows.
But the solidarity of the moment experienced through wrestling creates beauty. Therefore, it is found in our relationship with our Creator. As we press into each moment of our lives with the intention of experiencing the moment with God, we encounter Him.
How many times has a coach or mentor urged us to trust in the daily process of our training? It is our job to show up everyday and train with the utmost effort and urgency. It is often a brutal regiment. Still, we do it because we trust the process and know that growth will come from our toils.
This moment is the accumulation of all the moments you have experienced in your life. Every thought you have chosen to believe has now become the foundation of your life. Former NMU-OTS head coach, Rob Herman once told me, “The time to get strong is now. If your opponent is stronger than you, push-ups during the 30 second break won’t do you any good.”
So, train now. This is the moment that matters.
Scripture tells us that whenever we focus our attention on God, the veil is lifted from our eyes and freedom is found (2 Corinthians 3:16). In this life, there will always be trials and tribulation. That is a fact.
However, there is a confidence to be had when we come face-to-face and contemplate God’s nature. We are designed for a relationship with our Creator, a longing for something deeper, something meaningful, because something more was placed in our hearts at the moment of conception. It is the desire to know and be known by our Father. I speak with all sincerity and confidence when I say that He desires to meet us here, in this moment. This is where transformation from brokenness into His image with ever-increasing glory occurs.
As an athlete, you aspire for greatness. It is your divinely-inspired nature to strive and accomplish, to build and succeed. As you walk through those processes, take careful notice of the gift of this moment. It is here, when you sit completely and safely revealed before God, that you experience and encounter the glory of our Creator. When you allow yourself the freedom to live this life, compete and train with the mindset that nothing matters outside of this moment. For beauty is created through you.