A Proper Sendoff
Ray Weis has participated in his share of state tournaments over his 25 years of coaching, but this year meant a little more.
Weis is stepping down after 20 years leading the Trojans. It wasn’t an easy decision for a man who eats, sleeps and breathes wrestling. He made sure that he went out on a high note.
Jenks qualified nine for the state tournament at the state fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, three placed. Drake Vannoy, Thatcher Hall, and Weis’ son, Garrett.
Weis has had the opportunity to coach each of his three sons, Garrett being the final in a long line of successful Trojan grapplers. Garrett finished fourth at 182 pounds and his dad couldn’t have been more proud.
“It’s very difficult to describe how meaningful his wins at the state tournament were,” Weis said. “I’ve been in this sport for a long time. I think I’ve done a lot for the sport of wrestling; I think I’ve been a good ambassador for the sport of wrestling. For the sport to give back to my son the way it did this weekend, it meant so much.”
Weis speaks emotionally about the weekend not just for his son, but for all his wrestlers. Drake Vannoy, a two-time state champion, ended his career taking second place in the 162-pound weight class. Hall capped off his impressive season with a fourth-place finish at 145 pounds.
For someone like Weis, who respects every aspect of the sport, he can find the silver lining in something as devastating as ending a career on a low note.
“A lot of times you learn more from a loss than with a victory. Unfortunately, both those guys ended their career with a loss but what they’ll learn from that could make a huge difference down the road. You learn a lot from adversity. When things are easy you don’t really understand it and value the struggle.”
Though their high school careers have come to an end, it won’t be the last time they hit the mat. Hall will compete for the University of Oklahoma next season. Vannoy is undecided. For someone like Vannoy to walk away from the game with his head hung would be a travesty, Weis believes. For all his accomplishments and with so much room to grow, he should look back on his time with optimism.
“Obviously, Drake’s goal was to be a repeat champion,” Weis said. “He’s always going to be a two-time champion, that’s never going to go away. He is still incredibly successful. When he steps on the mat again, that loss will humble him and make him work even harder. Losing is not always a bad thing.”
The season has concluded and so has Weis’ coaching career.
Despite that, it’s business as usual for him and his program. This week he’s been talking to underclassmen about how they need to train in the offseason and what they need to do to prepare themselves to represent Jenks in the coming years.
Weis is still planning on going to freestyle tournaments and camps with the team during the offseason, barring a coaching hire.
And even then, he’d like to play a part. Retiring from the wrestling program was never an easy decision. He won’t give up on his mission just because he isn’t coaching anymore.
“You’re still trying to get kids to do the right thing, trying to improve kids and that may never leave my body,” Weis said.
Over his coaching career, Weis has made it his number one priority to coach his wrestlers in becoming good, hard working young men. Wrestling was a close second.
Weis plans to continue teaching at Jenks middle school next year and hopefully find a role in administration. There, he can continue assisting young adults in growing like he has with wrestling.
“That’s what I’ve done for 25 years, help kids build confidence and make quality decisions and my vehicle to get that accomplished has been the sport of wrestling.”