Prairie graduate serves his country and his wrestling community

Jake and Jason Wilcox are enjoying their time together at the Pac Coast Wrestling Tournament this week. Jake is the head coach at Evergreen. Jason, a 2021 graduate of Prairie, is on leave from the Air Force and is a volunteer assistant coach for his dad. Photo by Paul Valencia
Jake and Jason Wilcox are enjoying their time together at the Pac Coast Wrestling Tournament this week. Jake is the head coach at Evergreen. Jason, a 2021 graduate of Prairie, is on leave from the Air Force and is a volunteer assistant coach for his dad. Photo by Paul Valencia

Jason Wilcox, on leave from the Air Force, temporarily joins his father on the coaching staff at Evergreen High School

His grandfather was in the Air Force. So was his dad.

So when Jason Wilcox answered his call to serve, he joined the Air Force, too.

“True blue through and through,” he said.

A 2021 graduate of Prairie High School, Wilcox now lives close to 3,000 miles from Clark County, serving at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina.

But he also loves serving the wrestling community back home.

For three weeks, he is serving as a volunteer assistant wrestling coach at Evergreen High School, where his dad, Jake, is the head coach. Together, they are helping the Plainsmen run the prestigious Pac Coast Wrestling Tournament at Hudson’s Bay High School.

“Our family is big on wrestling. We love wrestling,” Jason said. “It’s what got me through high school.”

After graduating, he left for basic training in Texas. 

“What better time to join than right after high school,” Jason said. “I wanted to do something bigger than myself.”

He had his tech school, also in Texas, before being sent to South Carolina.

That was a long stretch without wrestling for an athlete who was one of the best in Washington.

“Being away from it, there wouldn’t be a time I wouldn’t send my father a video of a wrestling match or talking about wrestling,” Jason said. “When I left for South Carolina back in April, I said, ‘Man, I really do miss wrestling.’” 

That is when he started planning.

If he didn’t take any leave from then until December, he would have enough down time to travel back to Clark County at the perfect time.

“I’ll save up my leave for Christmas,” Jason said. “Christmas is my favorite holiday, and I know there are a lot of big matches around Christmas time.”

His father was named the head coach at Evergreen, and Jake and Jason got all the paperwork done in order for Jason to be an official volunteer coach while he was in town.

“I’m having a great time being here and being around the wrestling community again,” Jason said. “I missed it a lot.”

The Pac Coast Wrestling Tournament concludes Friday night, with finals around 6 p.m. at Hudson’s Bay High School. Jason Wilcox was the first Prairie wrestler to win at Pac Coast. That was his junior year. Later that season, Jason finished second at the Class 3A state championships.

There would be no state championships in 2021 after the government’s response to COVID wreaked havoc on high school athletics.

Alex Ford of Prairie won a state title in 2022, the first Falcon to accomplish that feat. Ford would later say he didn’t feel like the first Prairie champion because he knew Jason Wilcox would have won it all had there been a Mat Classic in 2021.

“There was a lot of dust in my room when I was reading that article,” Jason said, still appreciative of Ford’s acknowledgement.

Wrestling for Prairie was a life-changer for Jason Wilcox.

“I have never been more thankful for something in my life. It built me,” Jason Wilcox said. “I have to thank my coaches, my father, all my partners who beat up on me. I have to thank them for the man I am today, because of wrestling.”

Jake was an assistant with Prairie at the time. Now, Jake is the head coach at Evergreen.

“He’s always been a really good coach to everyone,” Jason said of his dad. “It’s been a good opportunity for him to test his coaching skills. He knows what he’s talking about, and he’s a people person. He’s been doing a great job.”

Still, it is a bit odd to see the Wilcox family wearing Evergreen shirts.

Father and son say they still root for Prairie, too. Sure, they are league rivals, but family comes first, and wrestling is family.

No matter what happens the rest of this season, the Wilcox family will always remember these special days.

“Coming back and coaching with him, it’s just a great opportunity,” Jason said.

Oh, and it’s not just father-son. Kennedy Wilcox, a senior at Union, is out with an injury. She also has been helping her dad out this season.

“As a dad, to see them want to continue to be part of wrestling, it lets me know I didn’t push them too hard and I didn’t sour their taste for the sport,” Jake Wilcox said. “I get to see them grow as coaches now, and I’m proud of that.”

Soon, Jason Wilcox will be returning to South Carolina. He has a six-year commitment to the Air Force. Wherever the Air Force takes him, he said he will be interested in helping out the nearby wrestling community. His days as an athlete are behind him, but he wants to stick with coaching.

“I don’t think wrestling will ever not be part of my life,” Jason Wilcox said.


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