A two-time state wrestling champion from Perry, Jake Hager has turned into one of the most recognized competitors in professional wrestling today.
Competing as Jack Swagger for the WWE, he’s held the United States Championship and the World Heavyweight Championship over his eight-year career.
Hager attended Oklahoma as a two-sport athlete, competing in wrestling and football before committing fully to wrestling as a sophomore.
The 6-foot-7 Hager went on to become an All-American at heavyweight in his senior season with the Sooners.
It was an amazing experience wrestling in Perry, Oklahoma. I don’t know if there is any place quite like it. The whole town supports it and breathes it. They go through every step with you. It’s almost like when you’re cutting weight they’re cutting weight with you, or when you’re digging for that last-second takedown they’re right there with you. It’s amazing the support that town gives.
You grow up there knowing that you’re going to wrestle. It’s not forced on you or anything, but it’s a very special environment where you just want to do it. I caught the bug very early.
I was fortunate enough to have great coaches around me like Scott Chenoweth and Danny Hodge. They were not only my coaches, but my friends. I would not be here where I’m at today without Perry wrestling and its coaches.
(Playing football and wrestling at OU), that was a lot. You really had to prove how hungry you were and how successful you wanted to be. Along with juggling a college education it was almost like three sports, but it was a great experience. Being fortunate enough to have two teams and having twice the teammates and experiences is something I’ll take with me wherever I go. You have a special bond with your teammates and I had a lot of great ones at Oklahoma.
I played defensive tackle and I came in on the same class as Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek. Kory Klein and Barry Holleyman were the older guys in front of us. It was a stacked position at the time, but definitely where I wanted to be.
I will always remember the first time I ran out on the field at OU. It was back in 2001 and we had the first game of the season at home against North Carolina. Julius Peppers was in his senior season there, so we were fired up for that. I had tears in my eyes that first time I hit the field and 80,000 Oklahomans stood up cheering for you. I get goose bumps to this day thinking about it.