West Coast to Midwest: A Wrestler’s Tale of Relocation and Resilience

When Tom Molony was hired, he took over a William Jewell program that had only 14 wrestlers on the roster. 

By the end of this past season, six of those had left the team. Some wanted to focus on academics, some wanted to try another school and some just were at the end of the line when it came to burnout.

Molony understood each of those situations. After all, he was hired as the head coach on Aug. 9, 2022, and he didn’t recruit a single wrestler who competed for the Division II Cardinals last year.

This year … this year was supposed to be different.

Well, it is, but for all the wrong reasons for the United States Air Force veteran.

He’s without a job and the school may or may not have wrestling this year and won’t for sure in 2024-25.

The sudden pause by the administration for the Liberty-based school has put those wrestlers who stayed with the program and those who bought into what Molony was selling in tough situations. 

There are two on the roster who came to the school from California: freshman Elijah Guzman and junior Josiah Quiroz, a junior college transfer.

A native of Bakersfield, California, Quiroz wrestled at Bakersfield College. In the 2021-22 season, he was SEWA Conference Tournament champion at 157 pounds. 

That is where Molony first recognized him and tried to get him to come to Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Indiana when he was the head coach there before coming to William Jewell.

“This was a chance for him to change his whole life,” Molony told MissouriWrestling.com, in one of his first interviews since resigning as the coach of the program in September, about Quiroz.

He said he worked a lot of angles to get him to come to Liberty to wrestle for the college.

Then, the program was unceremoniously dumped after only two seasons — while new programs like lacrosse and esports were added.

For Quiroz, the ‘pause’ of the program provided a little extra sting.

“I was ready to kind of get on with my life and get a real job and I got a call from him in August (2022) and he said he wanted me to come out so I told him I would,” he said. “I told if we could make the money look right I would have no problem coming to Missouri. We kept in contact and he kept his word. I was able to get financial aid and a scholarship. He did his part. I came out here to do my part … I had no idea this stuff would happen. I don’t think I would’ve moved 26 hours away for a place building a program to one cutting a program.”

Quiroz is one of many wrestlers that spoke with Missouri Wrestling and he is the only one that was adamant he would compete for the Cardinals this school year. 

“I might be the only guy that is competing but this is literally the reason I came out here … to wrestle,” he said. 

He’s also aware the school might change course and not offer the sport at all this year with so many others not interested in competing.

For now, he’s hoping it happens but it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

He’s risked things in his past to compete in the sport he loves. He said he didn’t get the COVID-19 vaccine, so to keep wrestling in California, he would take a test from the school and a test from the athletic department every week and sometimes three different times. 

“It’s like they were kind of putting up fences that I would have to knock down and he’s a fence again,” he said. “I’m going to fight back and make sure I put in my effort. I can say that at least I fought for it.”

Since the news broke — officially on Sept. 15 by a Jewell press release — he’s been going to class and making sure he finds time to juggle working out and the academic side of things.

“We don’t have a coach to coordinate practices with so we’ve been going to Mo West Wrestling Club and I do my own thing as well,” he said. “I see (Coach Ramos) here and there. It’s just a matter of figuring out how we’re going to do it.”

Quiroz is already 23 years old and he is in a different situation than many of his younger teammates — many either right out of high school or with one year of college on the resume. 

But he’s also like many of the wrestlers who were sold the plans of The Link to help make the program better for future success. Quiroz pondered the question where will the money come from the pay for The Link? 

But being a newcomer to the program and the college, there were things he didn’t quite understand.

He knew the school wanted to have a roster of 20 to 30 wrestlers — but there wasn’t enough room in the current practice room to have that many bodies practicing — especially with only one mat.

“You are only going to have more injuries,” he said. “The school didn’t give the program all the tools it needed to fulfill what they wanted it to. Coach had a vision and an image of the program and how he would build it. It’s a different thing to hear he resigned. I mean the guy took me around school and showed me where the new wrestling room will be and how we’re going to knock these walls down and build it up and have three mats across. You can’t tell me someone who has that image of the program gives up that easily and just resigns. It is frustrating the school just said he resigned.”

Like many of the teammates, he talked to Molony the Thursday before the program was put on pause. He said he was going to go to Indiana to recruit future Cardinals. In the Monday meeting on Sept. 11, the administration told the wrestlers that Molony quit on them.

“I mean yeah, it’s this bizarre kind of thing,” Quiroz said. “I wish that I had a little more clarity on this because it’s very bizarre.”

Now, he’s forging ahead with his initial plan — even if wrestling won’t play as big of a part as he envisioned with talks with Molony.

He came to Jewell to earn a degree and set himself up for his future. Quiroz is a business administration major and he plans to go back to California and get into coaching.

He already got some coaching under his belt working with his alma mater, East Bakersfield High School in his hometown last year. 

“I realized I want to help these kids go somewhere better and make a better life, but first I have to sacrifice my time away from being their coach,” he said. “They want me there for their victories and they want me there to help them up and keep their head up and I’m out here to make sure I can tell to not go halfway and to finish.”

What do you think?

Cody Thorn

Written by Cody Thorn

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