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Boone County native named 69th WVU Mountaineer mascot

Mikel Hager celebrates on the floor of the Coliseum after being named the Mountaineer mascot. He is wearing a blue shirt and is holding the rifle in his right hand, cheering for the crowd.

Mikel Hager, a West Virginia University senior and four-year cheerleader from Madison, celebrates after being announced as the 69th Mountaineer mascot during the men's basketball game at the Coliseum, March 4, 2023. (WVU Photo/Matt Sunday)

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A four-year West Virginia University cheerleader and former high school football player determined to inspire the young people in his hometown and fans across Mountaineer Nation will don the buckskins and carry the rifle as the 69th Mountaineer mascot.

Mikel Hager, a senior from Madison, was named the 2023-24 Mountaineer mascot on Saturday (March 4) during the men’s basketball game at the WVU Coliseum.

“Being selected as the Mountaineer is the single greatest honor a West Virginia University student can receive,” Hager said. “I look forward to representing the spirit of the University by being a good role model and making a positive impact on everyone I meet.

“The Mountaineer statue was not modeled after one specific person, it was made to represent every Mountaineer,” he added. “And as the new mascot, it is my responsibility to welcome everyone into the Mountaineer family.”

VIDEO: Meet Mikel Hager, the 69th Mountaineer mascot.

Hager, who lives by the motto “leave it better than you found it,” spends his summers in Boone County serving as a non-paid assistant football coach for Scott High School.

“My small hometown located deep in the heart of southern West Virginia has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic and loss of mining jobs and WVU has helped me rise above adversity. As the Mountaineer mascot, I want to be a source of encouragement and inspiration, and show others, like me, they are not bound by their circumstances,” he said.

An exercise physiology major minoring in psychology and communication studies, Hager is also a member of the Gold Cheer Team, serves as a New Student Orientation Leader and volunteers his time as a math tutor at Suncrest Elementary School.

“I can’t thank WVU enough for providing me with this platform to represent the 1.8 million people who call West Virginia home,” Hager said. “I hope to make a lasting change across the state, country and even the world.” 

“I know Mikel will bring a lot of spirit and enthusiasm to the position, and I feel confident that he will be a great ambassador for our great University and state,” said Sonja Wilson, senior advisor of the Mountaineer mascot program.

During a formal “Passing of the Rifle” ceremony, Hager will accept the rifle and the responsibilities of the Mountaineer mascot from Mary Roush (2022-23). The event is open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m. on April 21 at a location that will be announced later.

Finalist Braden Adkins, a sophomore from Richwood, will serve as the alternate Mountaineer mascot.

To make a mascot request, complete the Mountaineer Mascot Appearance Request Form. For additional information, contact Wilson at



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