Weekly Feature



2018-03-07 / Sports

Chase wins Vesper Memorial Coaches Award

JASON NADOLINSKI
Sports Reporter

Clarence varsity wrestling coach Jason Chase is joined by Brittany Vesper, left, Jan Vesper-Diver, second from right, and Cael Vesper, far right, after being presented with the Jon Vesper Memorial Coaches Award during Sunday’s annual Section VI Wrestling Coaches Luncheon of Champions. Vesper-Diver and her daughters have attended the ceremony every year since the award — which Chase called “the most significant award you can win as a coach” — was created. Clarence varsity wrestling coach Jason Chase is joined by Brittany Vesper, left, Jan Vesper-Diver, second from right, and Cael Vesper, far right, after being presented with the Jon Vesper Memorial Coaches Award during Sunday’s annual Section VI Wrestling Coaches Luncheon of Champions. Vesper-Diver and her daughters have attended the ceremony every year since the award — which Chase called “the most significant award you can win as a coach” — was created. Clarence wrestling coach Jason Chase never had the opportunity to meet his predecessor, but suffice it to say he feels Jon Vesper’s presence every day that he steps into the gym to work with the current crop of Red Devils.

Chase knew when he took the job the season after Vesper’s sudden death in 2007 that he would have a Herculean task trying to fill his shoes, but in the years that he has guided Clarence’s program, Chase has done an admirable job of creating his own legacy while honoring Vesper’s at the same time.

Perhaps that’s why Chase felt as honored as he did Sunday when he learned that he was this year’s winner of the Jon Vesper Memorial Coaches Award during the annual Section VI Wrestling Coaches Luncheon of Champions at Ilio DiPaolo’s.

“There are a lot of awards you can win, but out of all the awards you can win as a coach, this is the most significant award in my opinion,” Chase said. “It means the most to a lot of coaches in the area, and for me, having taken over the program that Jon cared the most about, this was huge for me. It was on my list of things that at some point in my career I’d hope to have an opportunity to win. I’ve always had the goal of filling his shoes, so to win an award that was created in his honor is always something I wanted to accomplish.”

“I was very emotional when I found out that Jason was selected to win the award this year,” said Jan Vesper-Diver, Jon Vesper’s widow. “This is a banquet [our daughter] Brittany [Vesper] and I attended every year with him, so I knew this would be very special for Jason and the Clarence Wrestling program. The parents of his current wrestlers worked behind the scenes to ensure that he was selected for this award.

“Jason was only 24 when he took over the team 11 years ago, and he had my respect and support from the first day I met him,” Vesper-Diver continued. “He stepped into this most difficult situation with lots of energy, tremendous courage and sheer determination. There are traces of Jon throughout Jason’s program and coaching style, which would make Jon happy, proud, and relieved to know Clarence Wrestling is in good hands.”

The Vesper Award is given to the Section VI coach who demonstrates a passion for the sport of wrestling, and who demonstrates a tireless and unselfish effort as a coach in both supporting and promoting wrestling and the wrestlers in Western New York. Chase certainly fits the bill in that regard, working hard to not only keep his wrestlers in the spotlight but to also champion the sport through various endeavors.

“There were so many times in the past that I was hoping that year would be the year [to win the award], so to finally get it is just a pretty nice moment,” Chase said. “I know it’s an award that a lot of people hope to earn, and I think it just goes to show how much you have to work hard in order to get it. When they talk about Jon, everyone talks about how much of an impact he had on their lives as a coach. I never met or knew him, but how much he and his family have had an impact on my life is pretty amazing. I just hope that Jon is looking down on the Clarence wrestling program and is proud of how I’ve carried on his tradition. His legacy is still strong and I hope to carry it on for a long time.

“It was a long season that started out kind of rough for a few different reasons, but we ended up having a good season that finished on some high notes,” Chase continued. “Win- ning an award like this, I just couldn’t ask for a better way to cap off any season. It’s definitely a motivation to keep the program going strong, not that I need it; I always want to continue to have the program get better and be competitive in the immediate area and beyond.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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