CENTENARY, Ohio — With a child-like love for the sport of wrestling, young man Hunter Jacks will now be competing in college.
That’s because Jacks, a senior wrestler at Gallia Academy High School, has officially announced his intention to continue his grappling career at Lourdes University in Sylvania, Ohio.
Lourdes — located near Toledo — is concluding its first season of wrestling with this weekend’s NAIA National Tournament in Topeka, Kansas.
Jacks, on Tuesday evening at Gallia Academy High School, officially put pen to paper and signed with the Gray Wolves, which are coached by Dock Kelly III.
The senior 170-pounder, a three-time Division II district qualifier, was flanked by his parents Robbie and Terri Jacks, Kelly, Gallia Academy High School wrestling coach Todd May and Gallia Academy High School Athletic Director Adam Clark.
For Jacks, who has wrestled since kindergarten, Tuesday’s signing was the culmination of falling in love with wrestling —plus sticking to it while working constantly to perfect his craft.
“I wrestled in kindergarten, and I think I only won one match. I didn’t come back until I was in like sixth grade and then I fell in love with it. After my freshman year, I started taking it really serious. I started working really hard in offseason tournaments and camps and such,” said Jacks. “My four years here at Gallia Academy, I’ve gained a lot of friends, I’ve met a lot of people from other schools and got to travel a lot. It’s been a good experience both in the offseason and in the regular season. I’ve got a lot of good work in, had good drill partners throughout and have had some good assistant coaches here that really push you.”
His time, year-round effort and diligence have indeed paid dividends — partly because wrestling is the only sport in which Jacks has competed in at GAHS.
Jacks, entering this weekend’s Division II district meet at Heath High School, has amassed 128 career victories —with 83 of those coming via pinfall.
Following his third-place finish at this past weekend’s Division II sectional meet, his record for this season is a career-best 40-8.
“Hunter has 40 wins this year. That’s a lot of wins in one year of high school wrestling. And I think he only lost one dual match and we wrestled a heavy dual schedule,” said May. “He was like 11-1 in dual matches this year and he didn’t lose at home. What’s not to like about that? College wrestling and Hunter will fit well. I can’t imagine him going somewhere and just being a student. I think he has a child-like love for the sport of wrestling. He is not going to be doing it (wrestling) just because it’s a sport. He is going to be wrestling in college because he actually loves wrestling. I think he is going to be fun to follow, because I don’t think he has come close to reaching his potential yet.”
May might know, since he has coached Jacks in the Gallia Academy youth and junior high programs —along with his final two years of high school.
Kelly, who was hired as Lourdes’ first wrestling coach in December 2015, concurs.
He moved to northern Ohio from North Carolina, and his statewide search in launching Lourdes’ program targeted Jacks.
“We cast a wide net, and went through every region in Ohio is how we first found out about Hunter,” said Kelly. “We reached out to him, and looked at his career accomplishments. We’re looking for guys that we feel are right on the cusp of becoming great. It’s always a risk, because if they blossom, chances are big-time programs come in and swoop them up. So we try to reach out to them early, before the season starts and during their season. We made some calls to schools in the area that wrestle Hunter. He got rave reviews. Everybody talked about what a great kid he was, how hard he worked on the mat.”
Jacks actually said “until about a month ago, my heart was set on Otterbein”, but he still visited about “six or seven colleges, including Alderson-Broaddus, Muskingum and Heidelberg.”
Kelly — who originally and accidentally contacted Jacks as a junior — said Jacks visited Lourdes in January, traveled through a snowstorm to do it, and accepted the offer that the Gray Wolves made.
“They (Lourdes) gave me a good offer and I fell in love with it. I kind of like a smaller school, and the guys on the team are great and the coaches are great. I got along with everyone and had a lot of fun while I was up there on my visit,” said Jacks.
Kelly liked what he saw as well.
“The guys on the team fell right in love with him. I mean he blended right in with the team. I had a heart-to-heart talk with Hunter about where we were going as a program, and I want him (Jacks) to help us get there. He said let’s try to make it work, and we got it all worked out financially,” said the coach. “I don’t need a state tournament to determine his value. I see his projection and where he is headed. I don’t care if he goes 0-2 in the state tournament or is a state champion. I like Hunter’s skill set. We’re excited to have him. He’s not only going to do well in the classroom and on the mat, but I think he’s going to be a beacon of light that allows us to recruit this area.”
Jacks advanced to the district meet at 160 pounds as a sophomore and junior, and is competing in the 170-pound postseason this year.
At Lourdes, he said he wants to wrestle in the 184-pound weight class, while still “squeezing down” to 174 pounds if necessary.
“I need to get my technique down and my strength up and get ready for college and get to the next level,” said Jacks.
But with his child-like love for wrestling, half of the battle appears already won.
Jacks said he plans to major in Business with a possible minor in Marketing.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106