Theatre Alumnus is a World Champion Wrestler

two men standing next to each other with fist clenched

Michigan State University alumnus Curran Jacobs has found success in his two passions — wrestling and acting. He wrestled for five years for MSU’s wrestling team; received a bachelor’s degree in both Theatre and Kinesiology from MSU; later went on to earn a Master of Fine Arts in Acting, also from MSU; and recently was named the 2018 Catch Wrestling World Champion. We caught up with Jacobs to talk about his acting, wrestling, and life after MSU.

Tell us a little about yourself — who you are, what you majored in, when you graduated, etc.: 

I just graduated with an MFA in Acting from Michigan State University last spring. It was a challenging time because my mom was battling terminal cancer when I entered the program. She passed away right before I began my final year. It was one of the greatest challenges I’ve had to face yet, but I know she’d be proud that I fought through to the end. 

Beyond school, I’m a really passionate person. I love sports; I love acting; I love having a good time with my friends and family. My son is my world; he is taking after me, which is scary because I was a handful as a kid! 

Acting isn’t really acting—it is being truthful in imaginary circumstances.

Tell us about your experience at MSU — what you enjoyed, extracurriculars, sports, etc.:

My experience at MSU has always been amazing. I wrestled for the Spartans from 2007-2012. I was the team captain my senior year, and I was one match away from being an All-American. On top of my Big 10 schedule, I majored in Theatre and Kinesiology. I was in several major productions including The Rocky Horror Show and A Streetcar Named Desire. It was quite an experience getting to mingle with athletes and actors. They come from two separate worlds, but those worlds just so happen to be a shared passion of mine. 

Did you have any mentors at MSU? If so, who were they and how did they affect you?

One of my greatest mentors from MSU is Roger Chandler, head coach for the wrestling team. He is tough as nails, and he’s extremely intelligent. I’m very happy to have him in my corner.  

Tell us about your experience with MSU’s Department of Theatre:

Achieving my Master’s in Acting was extremely tough. I had been wrestling since I was 12 and had to learn how to be physically and emotionally strong. All it takes is one look of doubt for your opposition to sniff out the fear in you and that may be all they need to achieve the victory over you. So, I had to develop a thick layer of skin and an even stronger mind to withstand all the adversity that comes with training and competing. 

Theatre really tested that strength. Imagine developing that skillset over the course of two decades and then having to strip it all away and suddenly become vulnerable through a very intense acting program. It wasn’t fun. But in the end, I was able to remove those emotional shields and barriers and experience a thrilling breakthrough in my acting. I spent three years in Los Angeles chasing my dream of becoming a successful actor before entering the MFA program. After graduating, I can honestly say that I’m ready for another run at it. 

two men wrestling
Curran (right) grappling with an opponent

Tell us more about the three years you were in Los Angeles. Were you doing any acting and what was that experience like? 

During my time in LA I appeared as a wrestling coach on “Modern Family.” I was a football player in an episode of “Glee.” I was a gangster in an episode of Jerry Springer’s “Tabloid.” I also auditioned for Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six” and the role eventually went to Taylor Lautner. Looking forward to what’s next!

Why did you decide to come back to MSU to earn your MFA in Acting? Since you were out in L.A., why not just stay and receive your MFA there?

I felt that I wasn’t a complete actor yet. I knew I had some weaknesses. I struggled with vulnerability, and I wanted to overcome that fear. Acting isn’t really acting—it is being truthful in imaginary circumstances. It is the actor’s job to be honest and vulnerable at all times, and that can be terrifying. After graduating with an MFA I can feel the difference—that fear is gone. Now that I’ve filled those holes in my game I’m ready to play.

I came back to Michigan to get my MFA instead of staying in LA because my Mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She spent almost three years battling the awful disease before losing. My son had also just been born in Michigan at the time so I wanted to be Home. Family is everything. 

Believe in yourself because in the grand scheme of things, you are all you have. 

How has your MSU education influenced you? 

My master’s degree has given me the confidence to know that I am enough. The worst thing in the world is self-doubt. It can hinder your ability to land a role in any production, and it can destroy you when you’re training to compete in a wrestling match or a fight. Confidence is everything. 

Tell us about your experience with wrestling:

Wrestling saved my life. My mom and my brother sat me down when I was 12 and talked me into trying out for the wrestling team. I can remember not wanting to do it, but I’m sure glad I did. My mom and brother are no longer with us; my brother, Scott, was killed in an auto accident on Christmas day in 2005. They both wanted me to be successful in wrestling. It is what led me to become a world champion last July. 

Tell us about the 2018 Catch Wrestling World Championship and what that win meant to you:

Catch Wrestling is short for Catch-As-Catch-Can — catch any hold you can. This includes joint lock submissions and chokes. In the tournament I won, I had to compete against three opponents who were all world-class athletes. They outweighed me anywhere between 40-60 pounds. I wrestled all three of them for a total of 90 minutes with only 10 minutes of rest in between matches. It was a grueling challenge, but I came out on top. 

two men wearing gym shorts and t-shirts, one is holding a wrestling belt
Curran Jacobs (left) with champion belt

What are your future goals for your career?

I have started a company called the “Catch Wrestling Federation,” and my goal is to bring back this amazing sport for wrestlers and grapplers all around the world. I am being mentored by my friend, UFC Legend of the Expendables, Randy “The Natural” Couture, as well as leading wrestling author and historian, Mike Chapman. The future is looking bright for the sport of Catch Wrestling, and I am honored to be in the forefront of it all. You can find out more about this by visiting my website.  

Do you have any advice for students?

My advice to any Spartan would be to weather the storm. We all face adversity — every single one of us. It is up to you on how you deal with it. You can give up, that is always a choice, but you can also rise to the challenge and attack it with passion and perseverance. Believe in yourself because in the grand scheme of things, you are all you have.