By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– When you hear some of the names of the modern-day stars at McKay High School, one of them that floats around pretty often is Matt Jarding.
There’s no doubt that the hard work and sacrifice that Jarding has put in entering his senior year at McKay on and off the football field and the mat during the wrestling season.
The star athlete in the weight room is putting up the numbers that jump out when you see the 5’10 160, 170 pound or so senior. Over 300 pounds on cleans, 400 on squats and so on and so forth.
The scary thing is too, he looks like he’s 200 pounds with how muscular he is.
On the field, on the mat, the kid is a like a field general. Leading by example and always asking questions to ensure his knowledge of what’s going on not just for himself, but for those around him.
But it’s just who he is, leading by example for those around him.
“It’s good because it sets a good example for the younger kids and it sets up a method to build a program instead of just having a school be good for a year or two,” said Jarding on his leadership. “It builds these underclassmen to be as good if not better than we were.”
For Head Wrestling Coach Troy Thomas, he had an interesting story about his wrestler that illustrates how much he cares for his teammates, those around him and leading by example:
“A few weeks before summer break I got a text from Jarding saying “hey coach, are you available to talk, something important has come up”. Fearing for the worst I thought he was going to tell me his transfer papers went through, but told him to call me at his convenience. He told me he would have to wait for a response from another one of our wrestlers, before contacting me. A short while later Jarding called me and explained that one of our younger, more cognitively impaired wrestlers, was being bullied at school from a group of kids. We talked for maybe ten minutes, but I never told Jarding what to do. He already had a diplomatic plan that did not include violence, but instead inclusion and communication. That is what a leader does. He doesn’t need to be told whats right or wrong, he already knows it. He thinks of his teammates as family. This is just the start of many more leadership roles for Mathew Jarding.”
Stories like that one illustrate what Jarding is as a leader. How much he cares about those around him and wanting to see them succeed as much as he does. It doesn’t matter who it is, Jarding looks at everyone around him as an equal.
On top of all those things, all those leadership characteristics to go with his athletic ability; it could’ve gone in a totally different direction for him.
At the start of his junior season of wrestling, during the Rick Herrin Wrestling Tournament, Jarding damaged the meniscus in one of his knees during the tournament, causing him to miss the remainder of the season as he saw Adam Dryden, Andy Rubio qualify for the state tournament.
Though the pain of what would’ve been for his junior season, the time away helped him focus up for his senior season of football and wrestling.
“It was huge for me because wrestling was going to be my, I was going to go far, going to be State Placer” Jarding described the situation he faced. “But I’m past that and I realize that I’m able to play even with a handicap like that. It hasn’t felt bad, but it’s really well. It’s feel like I haven’t even hurt it, so I’m excited to play on it.”
While some athlete’s would shy away from their sport while injured, Jarding embraced it.
As he healed up, he took an occasional mock live match during practice or two or a workout or two to stay sharp physically, he also looked at sports from a different angle mentally:
From the eyes of a coach.
The senior helped out his fellow wrestlers get better as he watched Rubio win the District Title in the 160 pound class and Dryden finish runner-up in the 170 class at Districts during his junior season.
“It helps a lot because you see it from a completely different perspective,” said Jarding. “You see it from, you’re not doing it but you’re the one teaching and that also learns all the finer details and finer points to the moves and it builds a much bigger connection with the team which is important even in a individual sport like wrestling.”
With Spring coming to a close and Summer about to begin, Jarding put the knee to the test on the field of athletics.
Jarding took part in the State of Oregon’s Freestyle Wrestling State with teammates David Rubio and Salavador ‘Chava’ Carmago.
He was out at 7-on-7’s at Salem Academy, and then at South Albany.
In between those two was team camp at McKay High School, the senior’s proved that the knee was and is 100-percent as he made the cuts and backpedals necessary to play Running Back and Linebacker as he looks to continue to lead by example as he always has.
First year McKay Football Coach Josh Riddell knows that leaders like Jarding will help them on the gridiron this upcoming season as him and his coaching staff rally the troops for the foundation to be laid down.
“It’s huge as a coach,” said Riddell. “We’ve been here, probably as a staff, for about three weeks now and when your best guys buy in to what we’re doing and are the leaders and show by example and by show as a vocal leader; the rest of the kids are going to follow suit.
“When your best players are the leaders, you got something good and now our best players are the leaders. Now we just got to have the rest of the guys to get in line, get on board and follow.”
It’ll sure has been an adventure for Jarding to this point, but one of the recognizable faces at McKay isn’t done just yet as Football season is about to begin.
And he’s hungrier than ever.
“There are even higher than they were last year and they’re the highest I’ve ever had since freshman year,” “For both (Football and wrestling) I’m hungry. I want All-State Linebacker and I want State for Wrestling.”
The journey of The Leader known as Matt Jarding is still going on as he continues to help lead the Scots to the Promise Land behind what he knows best:
Leading By Example.
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