Swisher finds success in 3 sports to lead Greenwave
Jack Swisher was destined for baseball greatness before he was even born.
Eighteen years ago, John and Debbie Swisher were expecting twins and always knew they wanted to name their son Jack after one of their favorite Giants players.
“J.T. Snow had been with the Giants for a year and John and I really liked him as a ball player so we thought it would be cool if Jack’s initials were J.T.,” Debbie said.
Thomas would become Jack’s middle name when he was born and not until the following year did the Swishers realize that Snow’s middle name was also Thomas. Call it a coincidence or a forthcoming that John and Debbie would have a baseball star in the family.
Fast-forward to 2017 and Jack and his twin sister, Zoey, just completed their final year at Fallon with both starring in multiple sports. For Jack, he capped off a stellar career for the Greenwave after coming back to the football field in the fall and nabbing all-region honors as a defensive back before winning his first state wrestling championship in the winter. Swisher ended his three-sport run with baseball — his favorite sport — as one of the best hitters on the team and in the league.
For Swisher’s accomplishments, he has been named the Lahontan Valley News Male Athlete of the Year.
“I wanted to win a state title in every sport. That is very hard to do, but that is how you need to practice every day,” said Swisher, who helped Fallon win the baseball title as a sophomore. “In wrestling, we were one win away from being back-to-back state champions as a team.”
Swisher took a couple years off in football, including the state title run in 2015, before coming back in his final year. He made an immediate impact although the team fell short of reaching the state playoffs. With wrestling, he was one of two Greenwave wrestlers to win an individual state title. The end of his baseball season and Greenwave career was bittersweet, but Swisher will be attending Lane Community College in Oregon this fall as he continues his pursuit to become a Division I baseball player.
“Baseball has always been my love, and I wanted to go out every game and play my heart out,” he said. “I wanted to be the small guy who had a lot of power and didn’t let any balls by him. I always wanted to play with a lot of energy like the way coaches (Eric) Clifford and (Bret) Workman brought to the field.”
With Swisher excelling on and off the field — he’s a member of the National Honor Society and recipient of several scholarships — his success has been a result of not only hard work and dedication, but his family support and relationships with his siblings carried him past his potential.
A UNIQUE RELATIONSHIP
Never was there a time when the Swisher twins didn’t encourage each other to do better.
Before high school, they played the same sports where they formed a stronger, closer bond but once it was time to step on the new campus, some of sibling competitiveness was lost.
But that wasn’t a bad thing.
“We could celebrate each other’s successes because we wouldn’t compare each other,” Zoey said. “Honestly, that was the best, when we stopped playing the same sports. We just got to enjoy watching each other play the sports they loved and we got to be happy for them without a competition between us.”
Jack and Zoey were each other’s biggest fan aside from their parents.
Zoey was able to watch Jack compete throughout his senior season, including the state wrestling win in February, one week before Zoey and the Lady Wave basketball team won its first-ever NIAA-sanctioned state title.
“Watching Jack win that state title was almost as great as winning my own,” Zoey said. “I got to watch him wrestle his title match, and I was probably more nervous than he was.”
And when Jack avenged the loss in his junior season, it was his turn to return the support his sister showed. It included a trip to Las Vegas one week later as Fallon defeated Lowry for the state title on the UNLV campus.
“The cool thing was that he also got to watch me win my state title, and those two weeks were a happy two weeks in the Swisher household,” Zoey added.
Even though they don’t play the same sports, there’s still some competitiveness, especially in the classroom where Jack said he tries to make up for lost ground on the field.
“It’s great having her at all of my events and having her support,” he said. “I think we are competitive in a way because she has all the brains so she has better grades and I try to be better in sports.”
Being a twin has many perks, including a built-in friend, but it’s nothing different than the typical sibling relationship.
“We fight sometimes but honestly he’s one of my best friends,” Zoey said. “We have a lot of the same friends and we like to do a lot of the same things. Growing up, we played every sport a lot together. We’d get together a lot of the time and play whiffle ball with the (Chase and Conley) Hydes, another set of twins. We played volleyball, soccer, football and basketball, whatever we could find we would play.”
But when the fall college semester arrives, Zoey and Jack will be apart for the first time. Jack will be in Oregon playing baseball for a community college while Zoey will attend the University of Nevada, Reno.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Zoey said. “I’ve never been away from him for more than two weeks, so a semester is going to feel like forever. It’ll be weird and odd to not have him close or around all the time, but it’s time for us to go pursue our dreams. High school was great and I’m sure I’m going to miss Jack more than I think, but I’ll always have these memories, especially from senior year, that no one can take away from either of us.”
Not all is lost for Zoey, though.
Will Swisher, the last of the Swisher children, will be a freshman this year and has been one of the twins’ biggest supporters.
“With my brother, we have a great relationship. He runs cross county and shoots archery so it’s different with him,” Jack said. “It’s nice to watch something completely different from what Zoey and I do. He is very supportive of us. It helps me play better knowing him and my sister are in the stands.”
What Zoey and Jack did on the field in their career, they both have high hopes for their younger brother when he comes on campus for the first time. While not as competitive as the twins, Zoey said that Will is more of an intellect who can achieve the same success they did but in the classroom.
“We all get along with him, and he’s very close with both of us,” Zoey said. “Next year is going to be so hard for us having to leave him, but I think it will be difficult for him as well because two of his best friends are leaving right before he gets into high school. I wish he was a year older so we all could’ve gone to high school together for a year, but he’s the brains of the family so he’s going to go do big things in life. He’ll keep my parents on their toes for the next couple of years.”
The support for the Swisher children extends to the parents and grandparents Suzi and Paul. Jack said his grandparents would try to attend every game and the only time his parents would miss an event would be when one conflicted with the other.
“I look up to my dad a lot, and having him watching every match or at-bat helps me a lot,” Jack said. “My parents have done a great job in helping me cut weight during wrestling season. It is not fun nor easy to cut weight, and they do a great job in assisting me through it. I credit a lot of my success to my family and their love and support and I can’t thank them enough.”
A DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH
One of Swisher’s goals in Fallon was to help the team win a baseball state title.
And the Greenwave did that during his sophomore year — his best season at Fallon — when the team captured the regional crown over Elko before taking down Faith Lutheran in the state championship. Swisher, who hit .404 during that season, would become one of Lester de Braga’s most consistent hitters.
The next two years saw Fallon being eliminated in the state tournament and then last month in the regional tournament.
“This baseball season was a little disappointing because of the success we have had during my time here,” Swisher said. “Losing the game to earn a trip to state was hard for me because I knew we had a good enough team to win the whole thing.”
Different this season, defenses aligned better to prevent Swisher from causing damage like he did in previous seasons. While his numbers slightly dipped in comparison, Swisher was one of Fallon’s best all-around players.
“When you don’t come out on top, there are always situations where you think you could have done better,” he said. “This season, I felt that a lot of teams put a shift on me. I had a lot of balls that were potential doubles or triples that ended up being caught and that was very frustrating.”
Nevertheless, Swisher didn’t disappoint at the plate or in the field.
Among those who had more than 100 plate appearances, the left-handed senior was second in batting average (.349), hits (38), steals (seven) and doubles (six) and third in RBIs (23). Swisher tied for the team lead in triples with seven. In the field, Swisher was nearly perfect as he had only seven errors while tallying 42 assists and turning nine double-plays.
Swisher’s grandfather, Tommy Jensen, was his inspiration to dream big and never settle for less, especially on the baseball diamond.
“He was a huge baseball fan and a great coach. He would have loved to watch me play all of these years from the stands,” said Swisher, whose grandfather died when he was 4. “I always believe he gives me strength when I am playing.”
When the final out was recorded last month in the elimination game, it marked the end of Swisher’s career with the Greenwave. He’s accomplished more than the average student-athlete during his four years, including winning state titles in wrestling and baseball, but the biggest thing he will miss is his support system. From his family to the community rallying behind him and the Greenwave, it’s something that can’t be matched elsewhere.
“I am going to miss seeing my family and hugging them after a game,” said Swisher, a second baseman who was a first-team all-region and second-team all-state selection. “It will be tough for them to make a lot of games in Oregon but I do have some other family in that area. I will also miss the community support. The perk of living in a small town is getting a big crowd for almost every event. There was nothing like this year’s state wrestling finals where a sea of Fallon fans packed a whole section of bleachers.”
SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST
Even though the school won its first-ever state wrestling title in 2016, Swisher was battling a demon.
The 160-pound grappler came up short in the state tournament in Primm two seasons ago, losing a heartbreaker in the championship. He was not going to let that happen again this past year.
“That loss in the finals haunted me really until I won it this year,” Swisher said. “It wasn’t that he was better. I got caught in a bad move and put to my back. I used that every day to make myself better in every sport.”
Swisher was stronger and better for his final season in Trevor de Braga’s program although Fallon came up two points shy of winning another team title. Instead, Swisher finally exorcised last season’s demon by winning his first state title in February.
“Jack has a goal and nothing can stop him,” de Braga said. “In wrestling, he has improved each year and gained one step higher on the podium. This year in wrestling was no different. He was a man on a mission and nothing could get in his way. He finally got his state title and it’s a memory he will cherish forever.”
Swisher, who had to forfeit the regional championship due to injury, met a familiar opponent in the state final. After placing in several tournaments, including the Sierra Nevada Classic in December, Swisher encountered Lowry’s Quint Bell for the first time this season as the pair wrestled many times the previous season.
With much at stake for Swisher, the three-sport letterman had to battle from behind against Bell. Swisher didn’t take his first lead until the final period and was cruising to an 8-4 advantage before Bell scored the final three points.
“That loss honestly made me a better baseball and football player because I knew I needed to work harder because fluke things like that can happen,” Swisher said of last season’s shortcoming. “I had great training partners in the room this year with Sean McCormick and Matt Goings. Along with the great coaches I had, we all pushed each other every day and I always took that loss with me as fuel to work hard every day.”
His drive to become the best started when he entered the program four years ago with Sam Goings and David Hughes leading the team. They helped push Swisher to test his limits and their hard work on the mat would yield nothing but positive results, including winning a state title.
“They were the first guys who took me under their wings when I first came into the room as a freshman,” Swisher recalled. “They pushed me in a positive way, and really showed me what hard work was. I always wanted to wrestle like them because they were so physical and tough, and when you wrestle like that it is tough to be beat.”
RETURN TO THE GRIDIRON
After seeing the school win its first state football championship in almost 40 years, Swisher wanted to be back on the field.
He played on the freshman team before taking the next two years off. He wanted to contribute during his senior season and he did.
“I decided to play my senior season and I had a blast. The coaches were excellent and made me a pretty good player,” he said.
Swisher was one of the top tacklers with 44 solo and 17 assisted tackles last fall as Fallon fell one win short of going back to the state playoffs. Swisher, a defensive back, also grabbed an interception and was the second leading kickoff returner with six returns for 92 yards.
“Jack was a tremendous addition to our football team,” Fallon coach Brooke Hill said. “He was a very good player as he received all-league recognition. He was also a great team guy. He always came to practice with a great attitude.”
For someone who took a couple years off, Swisher garnered second-team, all-region honors and was an honorable mention for all-state. He credits his coaching staff for getting him into football shape but wishes he could have been on the football field all four years.
“I wanted to focus more attention to baseball and wrestling. I wrestled and practiced baseball a lot in the fall during those years but I didn’t want to regret not playing football down the road,” Swisher added.
He also had some help from his teammates, including his best friend, Brock Uptain, who also played baseball with Swisher.
“He was the one that got me to come out for the team my senior season,” Swisher said. “He gave it his all every practice and game and that is something I respected and wanted to do myself.”
CONTINUING THE DREAM
Swisher always knew baseball was in his future.
With family in Oregon, it made his choice to attend Lane Community College over San Mateo and Sierra College much easier along with the opportunity to be more ready for transferring to a four-year program, perhaps at the Division I level.
“Lane felt like more of a family atmosphere,” Swisher said. “All three of those schools move on a lot of players to four-year schools, so my decision was not based on just numbers. I like coach Josh Blunt’s philosophy and his approach to running his program.”
Swisher’s swinging for the fences with his goals and aspirations when he moves to Oregon in the fall. In the classroom, he wants to get his associate’s degree out of the way and focus on making the same impact he did in Fallon but with Lane. The ultimate goal is getting everyone’s attention, whether it’s college coaches or professional scouts.
“I want to earn a starting spot in the lineup and put up good numbers so I can get on a few big schools’ radar for the following year,” Swisher said.
He isn’t shy from realizing his potential and the number of possibilities if things fall in place. Division I baseball isn’t out of the picture and neither is entertaining for major league clubs. The thought of playing in front of scouts excites Swisher but at the same time, he wants to eliminate any distraction as it can quickly derail his plan.
“The opportunity to continue playing the sport I love, and to play in front of college and professional scouts on a daily basis,” Swisher said of what he looks forward to the most. “The biggest thing I am nervous about is being distracted. With college comes a lot of distractions and if I want to move on to a four-year school I need to stay focused. But I love having a good time so this will be interesting.”
Swisher, though, isn’t resting his future on playing baseball for the rest of his life. He wants to find something that he will enjoy after college.
“I hope to find something that interests me enough to get a job and love working every day,” he said. “My goal and dream has always been to get drafted and I’ve learned through wrestling that if you work hard enough you can achieve anything. That is my ultimate goal.”
Through the many seasons and varsity letters won in his Greenwave career, Swisher continued to redefine the blueprint for student-athletes in Fallon. From his immediate impact in football after a two-year break to winning state titles in wrestling and baseball, Swisher’s determination, persistence and dedication helped him become one of the best to wear the green and white.
As he prepares for the next step of his journey in Oregon, Swisher doesn’t want to be forgotten. With big dreams to compete at baseball’s highest stage someday, Swisher’s already proven that when the odds are stacked, he can still overcome the adversity and be on top.