When ISI School of Wrestling in Crystal Lake hired Jordan Blanton as a coach, it created a perfect scenario for both parties.
Blanton, a three-time All American at Illinois and a three-time state champion at Richmond-Burton, said he couldn’t commit to joining a high school program with a full-time job at his family’s plumbing business in Chicago. And starting his own program was not something he was ready to tackle yet.
The biggest factor for Blanton was that he gets to coach in McHenry County.
[ISI} had everything that I wanted,” Blanton said. “I want to be giving back to our area. That’s where I want to see the best wrestling in the state of Illinois.”
Moving from elite athlete to coaching is not always an easy transition. Blanton said in college his relationship with his family suffered and was often reduced to text messages and postcards. That had a big impact on him and made the move much easier.
“I think it was just time,” Blanton said. “College was such a huge sacrifice.”
It also gives Blanton a chance to once again be a fan of the sport, something he lost the ability to do while competing in high school and college.
“I love the sport. Growing up, I was at all the big local tournaments,” Blanton said. “Not only do I love competing, I love following it.”
As a coach, Blanton looks to establish close relationships with his wrestlers, something that he valued as a competitor. He said the close ties he had and continues to have with Rockets coach Bret Wojcik was a big part of the success Blanton had and hopes to have as a coach.
“The most important thing for me is to develop the relationships and help guys reach their goals,” Blanton said. “Some of the people I’ve been in the room with and wrestled with all shaped me into the wrestler I was and the coach I’m going to be.”
For ISI co-owner Jim Herff, the chance to hire Blanton was an easy decision on every level. From the business side, having Blanton on the staff is already creating a buzz.
“There’s no bigger name in McHenry County in wrestling,” Herff said. “He’s already got all these kids from around the county approaching him.”
Blanton will also be a big draw for bringing in guest clinicians and coaches.
“The wrestling community is so tight,” Herff said. “Jordan knows everybody.”
Those things alone would not have been enough for Herff to make the hire if he did not also respect Blanton as a person.
“I’m big on character and integrity,” Herff said. “You will never find a person who will say a negative thing about Jordan Blanton.”
•Rob Smith is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.