Jason Plog was a success playing table tennis as a teenager in his native Germany.
Introduced to the sport by a friend when he was nine, Plog was playing at the club level just a few years later.
“My club back in Germany won the German National Team Championships in the minors division back in 2013,” said Plog, a 20-year-old marketing major.
That championship took him to Berlin, where he got his first taste of real competition.
“There were players there that went to a school specifically for table tennis like an academy. There were some crazy good players on that team,” he said.
These competitions, along with good play and a passion for the game, landed him a sponsorship with a German table tennis brand, Donic.
“A few people from my club had the sponsorship as well and it was a really good experience,” he said.
All of these accolades and triumphs, in Plog’s opinion, belong to not just him but his former team.
“The entire club I had in German was really great, we were all really close,” he said. “The team in general was a close knit community.”
With Plog’s German campaign behind him, in 2014 he turned his sights to across the Atlantic, knowing he would have to prove himself in America all over again.
“I lived in Germany my whole life, I wanted to continue playing table tennis and I found Texas Wesleyan,” Plog said.
This interest led to Plog reaching out to head coach Jasna Rather.
“He came here with his father to look at the campus and we got an opportunity to look at his skill,” Rather said.” At the time, when compared to our other players, his level was not where we expected him to be.”
Plog joined the team in the fall of 2014. It seemed to Rather that his lack of skill was due to lack of practice. So she waited patiently as he began practicing with the team.
Her patience has paid off.
“His desire in the match, his fire just transforms him,” she said. “Even though his technique or skill may not professional level yet he always improves and plays with one hundred percent the whole time.”
This has been reflected in Plog’s achievements. In 2014 he beat United States national champion Jimmy Butler and was selected to represent the U.S. in the North American Championships.
He currently has a 2377 rating in the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association, good enough to be ranked No. 26 in the nation.
All of this, however almost never happened.
“My grades were translated so wrong that Wesleyan wasn’t going to accept me,” Plog said. “The GPA that was given to Wesleyan was so low that I almost didn’t make it.”
Tyler Gerwig, a sophomore finance major and Plog’s roommate since he came to Wesleyan, believes his friend has a bright future.
“His mental game has improved a bunch,” Gerwig said. “That comes with time I know but I think going from club to collegiate competition so quickly definitely helped him mature.”
Gerwig believes that the change from Germany to the U.S. also helped Plog.
“He’s in both worlds equally, basically an American international,” Plog said. “He was already accustomed to American culture and I think it helped him a lot.”
Plog and the rest of the team hit a roadblock last season. It was the first time in 11 years that the team did not win the national championship.
“It was one of the best teams we ever had,” Plog said. “We were so close so it was very disappointing. To make it even worse several of my teammates from last year took it so it hard.”
With this year’s national championships closing in, Rather expects big things from both Plog and the team.
“Everybody should come and watch him play,” she said. “He is proof that if you work hard enough you can achieve the level that you want. We are so happy that he is now playing like we knew he could.”
Rather said that if Plog keeps going, he could be a great player.
“If he continues to play table tennis seriously both in and after school at one point he will have a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team,” she said. “It’s all on how much time he decides to dedicate to the sport, so only time will tell.”
The Texas Wesleyan table tennis team hosts the Texas Wesleyan Open at the Sid Richardson Center on March 19. Admission is free.