Hard to Pin Down: Wrestler Jake Fernicola ’24 Creates His Own Style
Jake Fernicola ’24 stands out in a Davidson crowd. The college’s only heavyweight wrestler, he’s also president of the Anime Club, has several tattoos, wears vintage t-shirts with flannel on top and usually rocks a hat that says “DAD.” The two-sport athlete chose Davidson over Yale.
“I was actually more focused on football, but I was open to football or wrestling in college, and I went on several official visits,” he said. “Davidson was the only wrestling visit. Ultimately, it came down to football at Yale or wrestling at Davidson. The Davidson Trust and other wrestling support made a huge difference, and I loved the whole experience on campus. In the end, I only applied to Davidson, and it’s definitely been the right choice.”
His nickname, Coca-Cola (risky on a Pepsi campus), is a derivative of his grandpa’s nickname, Joe Pepsi. It’s a name he’s embraced—so much so, he and his sister have matching tattoos of a fern growing in a cola can. Other ink includes Led Zeppelin symbols, a snake with flowers and an anime image.
The Ellington-Fagg Wrestling Scholarship recipient from Piedmont, South Carolina, walked onto campus with varied interests and has expanded his list of passions even more. Now the Anime Club president, he had never watched the cartoons, which are produced or inspired by Japanese animation, until he came to Davidson. The club he leads has approximately 90 members.
“My freshman fall, other wrestlers were talking about it, so I gave it a shot, and it’s actually really good,” he said. “I joined the club sophomore year and have since become the president. We meet every other week—trivia nights, movies, contests, giveaways. It’s great.”
Fernicola is a psychology major who is considering adding a communication studies minor, and he’s teaching himself Italian in hopes of living there someday. His father’s side of the family is Italian, and they speak it whenever there are family gatherings. A near-term goal is to travel to Italy.
The career dream is to become a sports agent like Jerry McGuire, and I’d like to work for an American company but live in Italy. So I’d be the middleman to European athletes who want to play in the States.
Outside of wrestling, school and researching his next tattoo, Fernicola is involved with the Buddy Club, whose members work with children with special needs. The kids come to campus, and Davidson students read to them and spend meaningful time together. His sister is a special education teacher, so he says he came by this interest naturally.
The last remaining question surrounds the DAD hat. It’s pretty simple: Fernicola doesn’t like trendy flat-bill hats; he’s more comfortable in a super-soft hat with buckle closure, which his contemporaries call “dad hats.” What could be funnier than a dad hat that actually says DAD on the front?
“I love it,” he said. “My sister bought it for me, and it’s really comfy. But no, I’m not a dad.”