By Abby Cornelius
From the wrestling mat to the cheer mat, Jacen Jackson has done it all.
Jackson, a senior on the Mustang wrestling squad, recently joined the school’s cheer team. He has been a part of the wrestling program since he was a freshman and a member of the cheer squad since the fall.
Cheer is new and fun for Jackson, but he says that wrestling is No. 1. It’s what he grew up loving and says he started wrestling at four years old.
“My brother brought home a flyer from his kindergarten class,” Jackson said of how he was introduced to the sport.
Jackson says he has had the privilege of being coached by some of the best wrestling coaches in the state. He attributes a vast amount of his success to former Mustang coaches Brian Picklo and Daniel Wiley.
“In 2015, my brother Jaston and I joined the Matrix little league wrestling team,” Jackson said.
At the time, his family lived in Elk City. However, his practices were in Mustang. He acknowledges how big of a time commitment that was for his parents.
“My parents drove us to practice two and sometimes three times a week,” Jackson said.
All of the that time and dedication paid off when Jackson was part of Mustang’s first-ever dual state championship in 2021. It’s his favorite memory so far as a member of the program.
Jackson and the Broncos compete this weekend in the 2023 OSSAA state wrestling tournament at Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City in hopes of winning another state title. Jackson and Mustang coach Will Delk expects his team to compete well.
What sets Jackson apart from his opponents is his unique wrestling style.
“All of my coaches have always said that I wrestle like they’ve never seen before,” said Jackson, who received an award for his 100th career victory in December.
Delk, who is in his first year as the head coach at Mustang, agrees with Jackson’s statement.
“Jacen’s composure during matches is what sets him apart from his competitors,” Delk said. “He has beaten many kids that may have had more pins on the board for this exact reason.”
It’s no secret that wrestling can be a physically demanding sport. Consistently staying in the same weight class can be difficult for some, but Jackson says he’s able to maintain his weight and stay in shape. This season he wrestles at 165 pounds, but last season he weighed in at 175.
As far as leadership, Jackson says not has changed since becoming a senior.
“I’ve tried my best to be a leader throughout my career,” he said. “I always do my best to help the team and I feel that hasn’t changed since my freshman year.”
Delk agrees, saying Jackson is a strong, silent leader who leads by example.
FROM WRESTLING TO CHEERLEADING
Jackson had no experience in cheerleading before joining the Bronco cheer squad at the 2022 game day state competition. He helped the team place fourth as a base.
“I thought it would be fun and challenging to step out of my comfort zone,” Jackson said of why he joined the team. “It was harder than I expected, and I was surprised by how much fun I had and how much I enjoyed my teammates.”
Mustang cheer coach James Foreman says that adding a male to the group can make a significant difference.
“Males just seem to stand out in routines and bring a visual presence that builds intensity,” Foreman said. “They bring a high level of discipline and drive that pushes the team, but also creates an atmosphere that brings some fun in stressed situations.”
Not many would think wrestling translates to cheerleading, yet Foreman strongly disagrees.
“The strength, discipline, and grit that most wrestlers have translates extremely well to cheerleading. It made it to where he (Jackson) could jump right in and become a highlight of our routine. He has impressive partner stunting skills.”
Competing with 24 other teammates on the mat at the same time was not something Jackson was used to at first. In wrestling, it’s one on one.
“I prefer competing alone because you are in control of your own actions and can only blame yourself for mistakes,” Jackson said. “But I do enjoy cheering on my teammates during duals.”
Although wrestling and cheerleading are two completely different sports, Jackson points out one similarity.
“To me, it’s the competition,” he said. “In each, you try your hardest to do your best.”
After high school, Jackson intends to continue his career at the collegiate level. As of now, he is uncommitted and undecided on where he will compete.